A Poem to Raven

Stuart Basden
3 min readAug 21, 2023
Listen to me reading the poem

Dear Raven,

Oh how I love to feel your talons
tickling
as you hop
across my surface. And then… gone.

I sit, waiting
awaiting your return
eager with anticipation
wondering where you now exist.

And then, in a moment
you’re back
with some morsel
that you tear apart
as it consumes your attention.

What is it to eat?
To take something inside you
that wasn’t you
moments before.

I love it when
you nestle into me
nesting in my cracks and crevasses
lovingly bringing twig and moss
to weave your home
to raise your young
and teach them the ways
of raven.

To hop.
To tear.
And to disappear from my skin.
What is it to pop in and out of existence
as you do?

And when you’re gone
do you remember me?

And when you’re here
do you even notice me?

Love
Cliff

I wrote this poem at a workshop at the Manchester Museum called “Roots: Art and Poetry”, hosted by Anisha Minocha and Deshna Shah (more about Roots here). After considering the nature of recycling, and how we recycle words, we were invited to pick something from nature, and then to map out the connections and relationships that our chosen being/thing/concept has. This is the map I made:

A map of connections from Raven, demonstrating the interconnectedness of all

We were then invited to write a poem that started with “Dear…” and the invitation was that it could be written between two of the words on our paper. I chose Raven and Cliff.

I have recently been contemplating the aliveness and animatedness of all beings. As a practice, I’ve been contemplating what is it to have the consciousness of various beings that I encounter — something that I can never enter into fully, but perhaps can gain an increased empathy for. I’ve been toying with the following to describe what it is to be a person:

  1. having a perspective on the cosmos,
  2. having a sensory interface with the cosmos, and
  3. having some form of mind or consciousness, from which to perceive, feel and reflect.

As you can well imagine, this goes far beyond ‘human’ people. I believe all animals, insects, even bacteria, are in this sense, people. And by this definition, plants, rocks and atoms can all be considered to be people — even atoms have a local aspect to them, a sensory interface (they sense and interact with other atoms, photons, etc. through fundamental forces), and atoms are known to reflect (check out Arnold Mindell talking about quantum reflection in his books like Quantum Mind, etc.), indicating the presence of some form of mind.

Indeed, it’s common now to acknowledge that consciousness is the field we exist within and that everything is (part of) consciousness (also known as pan-psychicism). Check out Iain McGilchrist’s work if this truth isn’t familiar to you.

Of course, Cliff-consciousness is unlikely to use language and English words, as that’s particular to the makeup of some human body-consciousness combinations. Yet it’s my attempt at entering into a mind of a cliff, which went along with a complex of body sensations. If you want to practice empathy with Cliff, try it now just for a moment: close you eyes and feel/sense/imagine what it is like to ‘be’ a cliff. Notice the body sensations that come, and the quality of the space you enter. Perhaps add a comment below about your experience.

If you’d like to reflect more on the personhood of all beings I highly recommend Tara Brach’s talk/meditation Intimacy with Life, as well as Joshua Schrei’s episode of The Emerald podcast called Inanimate Objects Aren’t Inanimate (Or Objects). Or just re-read the Raven poem. :-)

A raven feather that came to me on some crags while hiking in the Pennine hills last week

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Stuart Basden

Extinction Rebellion co-founder. I facilitate the emergence of diversity, openness & complexity in our beautiful universe, and resist oppression & exploitation.