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 by Layne Maheu X
Song of the Crow by Layne Maheu
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  • First Published:
    Jun 2006, 240 pages
    May 2007, 244 pages

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The forest was never so quiet as then.

Except the cooling of the wind. And the murmuring of the yes. And the murmuring of the no. And the sighing beneath the leaves, waiting for the final word.

Soon the rhythm of Keeyaw’s ax resumed.

And the wind picked up, arguing again through the grizzled mat of the beastman’s beard, and My Other could imitate, with the high, nasally pitch of parody, the sound Keeyaw made, hacking away at the underworld, rending the tree of its branches, and the beastman would hesitate and look up, full of woe and worry, swinging those awful implements over his head and then down again. Tunk, tunk, tunk, sang My Other. And Keeyaw’s mournful mustaches shook.

We’re told that his understanding of nature was so exact that he could select the tree, specifically a cedar tree, or a kind of cedar tree, that in the course of one-hundred and twenty years, once planted, could grow to the height of fifty meters, which is the measure he needed for the construction of the Ark.

- Aaron Tendler, Noah and the Ark, Voyage to a New Beginning

Mother of Many

Another tree gone, and the sky hung lower.

The Giant lay dead, dumb, and naked, and Keeyaw kept smacking it, ripping the limbs free until the trunk lay wasted in the clearing. He went after the branches with the same grim intensity he went at the trunks, lost in mossy arboreal sadness, and he kept hacking away until he was further hidden from sight. Only then did our mother find it safe enough to fly to the nest. Her eyes, leaking the ancient ooze of her years, took us in lovingly as she lowered strips of half-chewed frog gut into our gapes. Then she cleaned the nest of our dung sacks, flew away with them in her beak, and then came back.

Every once in a while the winds threatened to argue all over again, but the sky let out a long sigh and the wind went on its troubled way, leaving us to the devices of Keeyaw.

My hungry brother and I strained above the nest to see what Keeyaw was up to.

He heaped all of the severed branches into a loose, snaggy pile. Is he building a nest here?" I asked.

I waited for an answer, staring at Our Many’s claws, scaled and gnarly and clutched to the nest at my face. Above her hooks, her squat old body blocked out the sun. But then she was the sun, dark with love, ragged with comfort. As if she were well-being itself, we longed for the blue-black, worn-feather protection to come shining down over us. But she bristled now from wounded authority, and her beak kept working away at the unrest in her coat.

Then "Eeiiwaaack! Eeiiwaaack!" off in the distance, soaring.

Whereas most creatures flee the sound of Keeyaw, my father flew in, desperate for a look. "Fly Home!" Whenever our father heard the beastman’s attack fall over the woods, he cried out in alarm, but also in eerie exultation. "Fly Home!" Was it a welcome? A threat? He flew in wild and large and threw his hooks out to land—even though the tree was no longer there—as if in denial of what Keeyaw had done. He must have thought his own absence had allowed the tree to fall. He lit far from our nest and let Keeyaw have it. He bobbed with each caw and his feathers flared as if Keeyaw were directly below, and the strange, terrible beast answered with the crack of his ax. Me! Me!" cried My Other. "I Am!"

But not even the begging of his favorite could bring my father to the nest.

Instead, Fly Home stayed where he was, leaning and lunging and spreading with each call, and our mother flew to the outlying woods to meet him. But their greeting was clipped and afraid. Our father had a huge, swimming brow of crown feathers where all his distant thoughts could live, and our thick old mother stretched herself up as best she could to rearrange his scattered brow. Can’t you see?" she said. "What’s happening to the woods?" Has he touched Our Giant?" No," she said. "I won’t let him."

Excerpted from Song of the Crow, © 2006 Layne Maheu. Reprinted by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.

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