Shiah IrgangLaden


Shiah IrgangLaden is a nursery school teacher in Baltimore City. He studied creative writing at Goucher College and has a few pieces published around the Internet. In his work, he tries to grasp on to tiny moments in life that carry too much weight.

A Cold Migration

The black ballet plays out across bare branches
of skeletal oak, silhouetted against violet
clouds, with hundreds of razorblack wings.
Beneath the stage, a tired mother pushes
twins in a stroller, a homeless man finds
warmth under the exhaust vent behind a
pizza parlor, and an endless line of cars
putter clumsily down Charles Street.
The cold does something to the smell of
a city, something predacious and beautiful
and dark. Maybe that’s not right, but I feel
like I should be hunting. A girl in red zips
past me on a bicycle and for an instant I
smell anger and sex and maybe love and
the crows must smell it too because they
scatter overhead and follow her half a block
before perching again.

My parents met when they were twenty-two,
and now I’m twenty-three, standing in this chill,
below lofty trees and all those black feathers.
I don’t know for sure, but I think we got it wrong.
Maybe we were supposed to flock and never got it right.
Maybe hundreds of years ago, we looked up at the crows,
lonely and jealous and angry that it was so simple
for them, so we gave them dark names and made
them dark omens, because we couldn’t understand
and that might be the end of it.

I wrote the first version of this poem a few weeks after my grandmother died. I don’t think that this poem is about her, or for her, but her fading presence planted the seed. It was my first real relationship with death. My grandmother lived with my family since I was in the 10th grade. She was a brilliant silly woman and I owe a great deal to her. We too frequently let the magic of our ability to relate go unsung.