Crow Parenting

Don’t look at birds in cages.  They are adored, because they are colorful.  They are kept, because
they are adored.  You are black, filthy, and free.  You are old enough to accept that everything 
you are is vile.  But know that all adorable things die, and we will eat them or the worms and 
maggots who eat them.  They become us.  The end of each thing is dirty and sad.

Kitten Machine


Yessir, every kiddy should own a kitty and every kiddy will own their very own hypoallergenic 
kitty.  That’s right!  Through the marvels of science and my magical machine, these kittens are 
bonified and certified to never stop purring when held in your child’s arms.  That’s right, sir, I’m 
more than just a salesman; I’m a middleman of happiness.  These aren’t just for children.  No, 
sir, kitties from this machine will reduce your blood pressure, reduce your stress, and reduce 
your taxes!  Don’t worry about training, these felines are as smart as a dingo with a GED and are 
as cute as a woman who is not your wife. Now, sir, can I ask you if you deserve to be happy, sir?  
Of course you do, sir!  And take it from me; if the good lord has blessed you with 19 dollars and 
95 cents plus sales tax, then he has blessed you with the means of buying happiness.  How does 
it work?  Well, I’m glad you asked, Ma’am.  See this man?  He couldn’t be any lower if he was a 
subterranean wiener dog.  This child of god was caught masturbating a little too close to a little 
girl’s window and was convicted by a jury of his peers.  Now he enters the chamber, and with the 
push of this button he becomes a bestial, soulless feline.  Acceptable for children of all ages.

Crow Hollow Books

About the poems:

Crow Parenting: A major theme of my writing is regret for being what you are as opposed to who you are.  I am male, which I'm told is less beautiful, precious, and good as being female.  I am a Mexican-Palestinian-American who grew up during the Bush administration when Latinos and Arabs were the national enemies. Even in liberal and feminist discourse there's an undercurrent that I am wrong to be what I am.  Being a Muslim I've spent years listening to friends explain why I deserve fewer rights for the sake of the safety of the majority, as if I do much more than write, masturbate, and play Nintendo 64. On the night this poem was written, a woman I liked blew me off with a lie. And in a fit of self-loathing I believed it was because what she was beautiful, and I was vile. I wrote this as a sadomasochistic letter to my younger self saying that I’ll never be kept or loved or wanted, but at least there’s a freedom that comes when nobody wants you.  It’s a fable, a new take on Aesop’s grape loving fox but with crows, a bit of anthropology, and sorrow. The line “know that all adorable things die” came from the working title of my master’s thesis which was “Death to the Adorable” before the title changed to “The Art of Being Expendable” after writing a poem of the same title.

Kitten Machine: This poem was largely influenced by Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God.  The carnival barker voice was inspired by the auctioneer in the novel.  Lines towards the end of the poem allude to the novel by name.  As for the premise, that came from the random gibberish I say.  I think at the time I was remixing "If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride." An example would be "If kittens were horses, agriculture would be hard." One of the times I said "If pedophiles were kittens, we'd give them to children." I had a poem due that week for workshop, so I made "Kitten Machine" in just a few hours.  The final draft is pretty close to the first draft.  That's not to say all my poetry works out that way.  But once in awhile the idea comes with the exact vision of how to execute it. It brings karmic balance for the poems that make you spend years on four sentences.

Sharif Shakhshir

Murder Two, Winter 2015

The artist's space.

Crow Hollow 19