Excerpt of Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu
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Song of the Crow
A big black bird is making the most gawdawful racket, for no
apparent reason, caw caw caw!!! his entire body bouncing upward with each
caw. Perhaps he is singing.
Ben Jacklet, "Crow Mysteries"
Happy Noah, singing Noah, eager to do Gods bidding without a
single drop from the sky. Theres the story of his miraculous birth, that he
came into the world already circumcised, with a full head of hair all long and
silver and already combed, and at the age of three could stand and deliver
speeches on the virtues of his all-powerful moral authority in the sky. But if
it were true, that he was born with the pale signs of Misfortune already
sprouting from his head, he wouldnt boast, not even at the age of three,
because it is a wellspring of sadness that grows there, and to carry it around
with you always is a burden no one would wish for.
How would I know? And why was I summoned to keep an eye on this
peculiar example of his species? It was in my stars, in my sky, and in my bones,
and is the story Im about to tell.
Suddenly the ocean waters began to break through over the
westward hills and to pour in upon these primitive peoplesthe lake that
had been their home and friend, became their enemy; its waters rose and
never abated; their settlements were submerged; the waters pursued them in
their flight. Day by day and year by year the waters spread up the valleys
and drove mankind before them. Many must have been surrounded and caught by
that continually rising salt flood. It knew no check; it came faster and
faster; it rose over the tree-tops, over the hills, until it had filled the
whole basin of the present Mediterranean and until it lapped the mountain
cliffs of Arabia and Africa. Far away, long before the dawn of written history, this catastrophe occurred.
- H. G. Wells, Outline of History, 1920
Crows, and with them I include ravens, seem as though by
convergent evolution to have something in their psyches corresponding to
something in our own.
- Lawrence Kilham, The American Crow and the Common
Keeyaw the Terrible
I remember the nest that hatched me. My mother lined it
carefully with the fleece of human and sheep, mane of horse, down of dogwood,
but mostly the fray of twigs and grasses. At first that was the world to me,
until I was strong enough to look out over the tangled latticework of twigs on
the outside of our nest.
Then I discovered the sky, spread out above our cedar roof
And from the sky came our mothers call, low and
urgent and gurgled through the broth of freshly dead things in her beak.
She lit, a black ball of rattling feathers, scanned all around
her, then lowered the quick clippers of her beak, smeared with blood and slime
And my brother and I, we opened our beaks to the sky.
We cried, naked and fierce.
Until we were just blood-red little holes crying out for the
minced guts of life.
Her beak worked in fits, shaking the foodstuff into us, then
pushing it further with her tongue. That became all of the world to me. That and
sleep. Sleep, and feeding, and our mothers low mewing call.
Then I began to wake to other sounds, other crow calls, and our
mother flew off to meet them. When the calls were near enough, I saw how the
rest of my family would feed her, and how shed dive back down to the nest and
give us their offering. Before long I began to realize when it wasnt Our
Mother of Many coming down to us. The others were longer and more luxurious in
the air. Our Many flew as if perpetually landingthe air and everything in it
between her and wherever she wanted to be. And if she found our father or one of
the other siblings feeding us, shed look us over afterward to see if we were
still plump and juicy, as if their inept feeding had sucked the vital juices
from us. Her eyes told us she was the only one with enough patience and wisdom
and past to love us, as if she were nourishment itself. Through the ragged fall
of her feathers, her eyes peered down at us, cloudy sky-yellow orbs of concern,
the only thing about her that was calm.
Excerpted from Song of the Crow, © 2006 Layne Maheu. Reprinted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.