My mother

was full moon,

my father—

lone wolf.

I was their child:

part howl,

part ghost-strung guitar.

I did not cry

when the witch doctor


the first pain of breath

into me.


I sang a song of what was,

what would be,

what would never be.

My birth certificate

was written on a blank page

of starless night.

I was baptized

in a river of black crows.

My first three utterances:



“Hold me.”

To this day,

I still search for

meaning and completion

in those three words.

TAGS: , , , , ,

RICH FERGUSON has performed nationally, and has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Exene Cervenka, T.C. Boyle, Jerry Stahl, Bob Holman, Loudon Wainwright, Ozomatli, and many other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed on The Tonight Show, at the Redcat Theater in Disney Hall, the New York City International Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, South by Southwest, the Santa Cruz Poetry Festival, Stephen Elliott’s Rumpus, and with UK-based poetry collective One Taste. He is also a featured performer in the film, What About Me? (the sequel to the double Grammy-nominated film 1 Giant Leap), featuring Michael Stipe, Michael Franti, k.d. lang, Krishna Das, and others. He has been published in the LA TIMES, Opium Magazine, has been widely anthologized, spotlighted on PBS (Egg: The Art Show), and was a winner in Opium Magazine’s Literary Death Match, LA. His spoken word/music videos have been featured at poetry film festivals throughout the world. Ferguson is a Pushcart-nominated poet, and a poetry editor at The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony has been published by L.A.’s Punk Hostage Press.

85 responses to “Baptized in a River of Black Crows”

  1. Irene Zion says:



  2. tammy allen says:

    Tears and awe.

    I truly love you.

  3. s.a. says:

    Beautiful… I wait for the incompletion myself.

  4. renoj says:


    i adore you to know end and your words never cease to inspire me. problem is: i’m not you. there’s only one rich f. so i come up short but love your take on things.

    ‘part howl’

    too kickass for me. thanks, rich. we carry on.

    always homie,
    reno j. romero

  5. Tiffany Poremba says:

    Those are three great first words. Holy and hold me. Interesting how they would play out for you in your life and work. It makes me want to know what my first words were– I think they were something like big black bird– which is absolutely not as interesting, but who knows? Maybe kids all have something to do with these black crows. 🙂

  6. Tiffany Poremba says:

    Oh my forgive the smiley– it’s such a tacky habit of mine.

  7. Szymon says:

    This planet is in need for individuals like Rich!!!

  8. Zara Potts says:


    You inspire me, Rich. You are breath itself.

  9. Dennis says:

    man Rich, i fell into this poem like a warm sleep. It really gave me the feeling that i’ve known you for several lifetimes. Like i know the night….or the rain.

  10. Becky Palapala says:


    This is really lovely. Reminiscent of Heid Erdrich (sister of Louise). She’s got a collection…”Fishing for Myth,” I think it’s called.

    You might really enjoy it. It’s been bugging me who you were reminding me of. It was her. I mean, thematically, of course. Because you’re a boy. And undeniably you, after all.

  11. M.J. Fievre says:

    This is simply beautiful. I don’t want to think about what exactly touches me so… Simply beautiful.

  12. milo martin says:

    i like your magic-realist confessional work…
    this is a bit Buk, a bit Sexton…but mainly, you…
    much love,

  13. Great stuff, Rich.

    “ghost-strung guitar” – awesome

    So many great lines, especially the ending.

  14. Eve Brandstein says:

    As usual- great poem !

  15. Chris Hill says:


    very visual, colorful – a poets cliff notes nod to carlos castaneda


  16. Uche Ogbuji says:

    Nice application of Blues idiom.

  17. chingpea says:

    leaves me breathless… my favorite verse…


    I sang a song of what was,

    what would be,

    what would never be.”

    thanks for sharing, rich…

  18. Brenna Fitzgerald says:

    Beautiful Rich. So simple, so powerful. I love the image of you as part howl, part ghost-strung guitar.


    • Thanks for reading, Brenna. And remember, my offer stands. If you need me to deliver a severe ass-whipping to any of your students, just slap some air-mail stamps across their foreheads and send them my way. Peace.

  19. Simon Smithson says:

    Ah, Rich, I can always hear the sound of your voice flowing through the text on my screen. Brings it home, brother. Wherever that holy place may be.

  20. I love this, Rich! This passage moved me especially…

    My birth certificate
    was written on a blank page
    of starless night.

    I was baptized
    in a river of black crows.

    but the whole poem did, really. Thanks for letting me know it was posted!


  21. Think Justin mentioned it earlier but I love ‘ghost-strung guitar.’

    Beautiful man.

    • Oh, Kimberly. Thanks for reading. And thanks for the sweet words. By the way, what’s the latest with your film? Are you at the stage yet where you need me to put on a ski mask and go rob some banks to help get you funding?

  22. I once gave poet Jayne Cortez a ride to her reading. She usually reads with her band, but she was solo that night. “Is your band meeting you there?” I asked her, and she said, “Honey, I am my own band.” That’s the first thing I thought when reading this — you are definitely your own band, Rich. Love the cadence and the imagery of this one. “Part ghost-strung guitar” — I could linger on lines like that all day!

  23. Stefan Kiesbye says:

    Oh man, very sweet. Love the “part howl” part. So true too, in the best way.

  24. Esther Sanchez says:

    That took my breath away, Rich. Every line was perfect. You have such away of tapping into what is primal in every soul. I am honored to know you.

  25. Mark Middlebrook says:

    Rich, As poetically compact and spookily atmospheric this is, it is but the first drop of rain. This subtly hints at a coming a down pour. If you want to open a window into this darker than life character and this primal story, I’m completely on board with bags packed!
    Keep sending more.

  26. Joe Daly says:

    Reading that made me feel like howling.

    One of my dogs is part coyote, and I sort of feel like I need to read it to her to see what she does. I have a feeling she’d understand on a very deep level.

    You walk your truth with both style and abandon. Thanks for the constant inspiration.

  27. Jennie Hettrick says:

    i think we all still search for the same thing… at least those who are looking. the title is my favorite line. it paints pictures and feels most like nature, night and something mystic… something native. wonderful.

  28. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Beautiful work, Rich, as always.

  29. J. Ryan Stradal says:

    Fantastic words, Rich. I’m always amazed at what you can do with so few of them. Thank you.

  30. Judy Prince says:

    Love your first utterances, Rich, and the spare, mystical, fundamental feel of this work.

  31. So many wonderful lines here, as always, Rich. I particularly liked “part howl, part ghost-strung guitar.” Great image.

  32. jmblaine says:

    i am your
    apocalypse dove
    & bone
    blackheart judas
    & dust
    drowning in Jordan
    to dust
    come home

  33. Greg Olear says:

    One of your best, Rich — and that’s saying something.

  34. Gloria says:

    Ah, Rich. Now I feel bad for having fun with Lisa Rae, above. This is amazing. Goose-flesh inducing. I don’t usually **get** poetry most of the time. I’m too dense for it. It doesn’t penetrate unless it’s needle sharp – like this. So beautiful.

  35. So stripped and haunting. Marvelous.

    • Ah, Nicola. So glad you chimed in, my dear. Hope things are going well for you in Montana. Please send more work my way whenever you feel so inclined. Love, love, love reading your poetry (and you make a pretty darn good ‘Lost’-watching buddy as well). Peace.

  36. Joshua Stern says:

    Love it, Rich! There is more FEELING than thinking in your words, which is why you have such an impact on people. Keep it flowing, my friend.

  37. D. B. Ruderman says:

    Lovely Rich — very raw — very real…

  38. Ashley Menchaca (New Orleans Lady) says:

    “my mother was full moon”

    speaks to me. The whole damn thing spoke to me but that line IS me.
    you amaze me.

  39. Janine Adair Kohanim Ferrell says:

    Dear Rich,
    I’m all shivers and tears….your words will haunt me for a long time.
    Thank you.

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