A Murder of Crows

by Michael N. Thompson
Publication Date: October 2014
Trade Paper; 234 pages; 5-1/4″ x 8″
ISBN 978-1-938753-11-4


I etch my words / Onto the fabric / Of an ill-equipped society /
The way a tattoo artist / Uses his needle / To mark skin and bones

Michael N. Thompson’s A Murder of Crows synthesizes urban pastorals with caustic commentary in a poetic pilgrimage down the road of redemption. Thompson makes frequent pit stops for mockery and scorn, and the journey is punctuated by odes to serial killers and elegies for fallen heroes. His circuitous route will leave you dizzy and dark with the knowledge that not everyone is meant to be redeemed.


“Reading Michael Thompson is a slow slide across very fine pavement, or an emery board made from gravel. The better part of the reader is left invigorated and brand new. Other parts, though, are rubbed damn near bloody. Thompson reigns over his words as if he invented the language, and we’re all better for it.”
—Tommy Gaffney (author of Whiskey Days)

“Michael has a unique voice and razor sharp wit that transcends poetry conventions and lobotomizes philistines. This book is a testament to his brand of verse and then some.”
—Brian Fugett (editor, Zygote in my Coffee)

“In A Murder of Crows, Michael N. Thompson’s poetry takes an insidious turn. Once known to me as the ‘Bard of the Disaffected,’ Thompson has honed his poetic powers to enchant me into wanting to become one of the ‘beautiful losers’ that propagate his work. From my safe house in the middle of my safe state I want to hitchhike to the nearest train station and ride the rails with Thompson while he catalogs America’s misfits with an equal balance of scandal and grace. Hell, I’ll even buy the tickets.”
—Suzanne Burns (author of The Paris Poems and Misfits and Other Heroes)

Selections from A Murder of Crows



A fresh razor
Has been put to my chin,
Coffee is the proper temperature
And ink is dying
To spill onto the page

For some, it’s a development
Long in the making,
But I just call this
Another Monday

I etch my words
Onto the fabric
Of an ill-equipped society
The way a tattoo artist
Uses his needle
To mark skin and bones

You won’t find me seeking solitude
Beneath a 40-watt bulb,
It’s easier to create
While I watch the world
Travel in perpetual motion

After a hedge of thorns
Bled me like a river,
I found that the perfect vehicle
Exists in such riotous episodes
That even my scars had sneers

In a world of electronics,
The written word
Dealt by my hand
Is still the deadliest weapon

Coming up with a good line
That truly excites me
Feels more exhilarating
Than when I received
My first piece of ass



The air is crisp,
Though not too cold
And in between tourist traps,
Bodies are strewn about
Like zombies
After an apocalypse

Old Korean women
With their carts
Pass by early morning hustlers
And they nod to each other
Knowing that both are looking
For a little junk
That might be worth
A dollar or a damn

Today’s vagrant
Sits at the bottom
Of the stairwell
Caked with expectations
That his paper cup
Will soon be filled with coins,
But doesn’t have the guts
To look subway pedestrians
In their eyes

Spokesmen for desolation,
Who would otherwise reside
Under the curve of an exit ramp,
Loiter in an SRO lobby
With a newspaper
And chain smoke Viceroys
On a velveteen sofa

Next to the Century Theater,
Addicts with jailhouse ink
Make their presence felt
As do the skinny Asian girls
Who long to break free
Of the massage parlor future
Their mothers have carved out for them
And a battle-tested crone
Shuffles along the concrete,
But the housecoat
In which she’s adorned
Doesn’t cover up varicose veins

Social clubs on folded chairs
Come to order along the avenue
While song and dance mobs
Attempt to entertain the uninitiated
For a few silver dollars
But mostly end up posing
For vacation photographs

Homeless men play their games
Of checkers, dominoes
And backgammon
On the same cardboard boxes
They’ll later flatten to sleep on
While fog swirls over the rooftops

The wing-tipped crowd
Crawls like cockroaches
Up the boulevard
Punching a clock
That hits back ever harder
Until it’s five o’clock
Where they dread returning
To Stepford Wives
And prefabricated tract homes
In their hell-du-sacs



Tie-dyed skies
Shadow the ocean floor
With deepened hues
And a cotton candy blanket
Cocoons the coast’s skeleton

A briny aroma
Creeps over the dunes
And waves dart like sparks
When met head on
By the fault line

Steamships meander
In the blurred distance
Searching for a harbor

Oh, what sights
They must have seen
With the daylight
As their guide

Pelicans fly in unamused rows
Like a squadron of fighter planes
While vapor trails from airliners
Linger in the jet stream

There’s a haze above the shoreline
That looks black and ominous
Like a hat full of rain
And pigeons are roosting
In a lean-to
Close to the breakers
While cliffs crumble
Five feet at a time
In an avalanche of soil

The surf roars
And beats its chest
As if a lion
While thrusting violently
Against the stoic pier
Like a frantic lover

After the heavens bleed
And ocean writhes,
A lyric of the mist
Creeping like ivy vines
Over jacaranda trees
Is begging to be written

Dusk makes its presence felt
In shades of rusted roses
And a burnt-orange sun
Falls off the edge of the world
Even though bluffs appear placid
As Tuscan hills

Along the receding seaboard,
Sunsets appear livid
Unintentionally breathing life
Into a wonderful drapery
And there aren’t any crowds here,
Just a two-lane blacktop

Ridges and coves
Coat the ides of March
While surfboards
Look like crows
From a distance
And the highway
That winds around
Is dotted with drivers
Overwhelmed by the brilliance
Lingering beside them



Former local legends
Bounce pennies off the wall
And lascivious members
Of the Social Security crowd
Leer at young girls
Smoking filtered cigarettes
Next to marble columns

A couple of salty geezers
Strum beat-up guitars
To impress pretty things
Behind the coffee bar
While a cul-de-sac crone
With features like Matt Dillon
Sips chamomile tea
And shakes her head
At their failed attempts of seduction

Private school debutantes
Clad in matching uniforms
Gather as if it’s recess
On the playground
And slim adolescents
With page boy haircuts
Just like Veronica Lake
Offer perverse enticement
To the old fogies
With hangdog features

The low-slung teens
Seek redemption
As they dangle the carrot
Before it’s their turn
To be saddled
By an unwanted life
With husbands of their own
Who’ll eyeball the next generation
Of spry nymphs


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