Excerpt from Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Song of the Crow

By Layne Maheu

Song of the Crow

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Song of the Crow

Prologue

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 God’s bidding without a single drop from the sky. There’s 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 wouldn’t 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 I’m about to tell.


I
Nestling



Suddenly the ocean waters began to break through over the westward hills and to pour in upon these primitive peoples—the 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 Raven


1
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 branches.

And from the sky came our mother’s call, low and urgent and gurgled through the broth of freshly dead things in her beak. Grow! Grow!

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 victuals.

And my brother and I, we opened our beaks to the sky. Me! Me!

We cried, naked and fierce. I Am!

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 mother’s 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 she’d dive back down to the nest and give us their offering. Before long I began to realize when it wasn’t Our Mother of Many coming down to us. The others were longer and more luxurious in the air. Our Many flew as if perpetually landing—the 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, she’d 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.

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