Ten Things About Crows

(image courtesy David Ladmore)

It’s been a year since I began trying to make friends with the crows in my neighborhood and I think I’ve finally done it.  So, for this 10th installment of my foray into the world of crows, I’ve written an almost-poem-list.   

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i.     Cameo appearance: She inspects me through one eye, always one, her left, illuminati, the only one she’ll show me, and while she watches, her silhouette cuts a perfect hole into the sky.

ii.     Black feathery shadow drops down, silent as snow and just as soft, darkness falling on two twisted branches.  

iii.     They never caw just once. They repeat themselves, in twos or threes, like old timers waiting (solemnly, patiently) for me to remember the mother tongue,

iv.     but amongst themselves, they use a chummy tone that sounds like gurgled ks, like chuckled gravel.  [Hear crows talking.]

v.      A crow can remember and locate one single human face forever, wherever, even years later, even in a sea of faces, while I can’t recognize even one. 

vi.      I walk out the door one day and the sky is dark. What happened to the sun?  Never before have I seen so many crows at once–the telephone wire dips and sways, the air is thick with beating wings–and I try to count (twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one), but they keep rearranging themselves (thimblerig, sleight of hand) and when they all began to caw, my world is the epicenter of a raucous flurry. 

vii.     Friendly shadows follow my car and wait outside my front door. They swoop up behind me, announcing their presence.  I used to think someone was spying on me; now I know.

viii.     That cagey strut down the painted line, tycoons with thumbs hooked in back pockets; the terrible elegance of a hobo in a top hat or a tap dancing prizefighter.  

ix.     People are to crows.  Crows are to people.  Don’t be afraid.  

x.    Ink blot is to Rorschach. Calligraphy is to still life.  Write is to tell.  

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To see the other things I’ve learned, click here to read previous installments of Making Friends with Crows.

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About girl in the hat

aka Anna Fonté, writer of novels, short stories, personal essays, and bits about the neighborhood crows. The things I write want you to look at them.

25 comments

  1. nice post. like the phrase “calligraphy is to still life”

    • Thanks, PhilosopherMouse– I like to try poems because I only have to make oblique sense.

      • I love ‘oblique sense’…a writer provides the thoughts and it is up to the reader to provide the spark that forges them together.

        Crows are marvelous, loud and talkative – but they live dangerously. They stand in the middle of the street, staring cars down; their take-offs are (too) low and leisurely and they do constant battle with mockingbirds.

  2. Ten things I know about crows: 1. Crows mate for life. 2. Crows can recognize and remember individual human faces. 3. Josh Klein came up with a really cool invention – the crow vending machine. 4. Professor Bernd Heinrich who studied ravens and crows is considered by some to be the modern-day Thoreau. 5. Ted Hughes’ Crow is a disturbing, magical, hopeful, tragic, enlightening work of art. 6. Crows are really smart. 7. Crows like to live around people. 8. Cat and Crow: An Amazing Friendship by Lisa Fleming is a new kid’s book about Moses the crow who saved a stray kitten named Cassie (true story). 9. Crows get together in large “roosts” consisting of as many as one million crows. 10. It is illegal to have a pet crow.

  3. elma

    I had some difficulties in the differentiation between the crow and the raven. The crow seems more known here in America and the Zool crow (raven) in France. It seems that the raven walks and the crow hops. To you to check this :-)
    Congratulations on your patience and your desire to be tamed!
    Below my gifts.

    The Crow and The Fox is one of the many fables by the famous man, 17th century writer, Jean de la Fontaine.
    Perched in a treetop, old Mister Crow
    Was holding a cheese in his beak.
    Drawn by the stench, Mister Fox, down below,
    Peered up, then proceeded to speak.
    “Well, hello, fair Sir Crow! Lovely day!
    How you dazzle my eyes! How rare your display!
    Not to lie, if your voice when you sing
    Is as fine as the cut of your wing
    I’ll know you’re the Phoenix reborn in these woods!”
    At these words the old crow became giddy with pleasure
    And, thinking to prove his voice a treasure,
    He opened his big beak-and promptly dropped the goods.
    Fox pounced upon his prize and said, “My dear, dear sir,
    Learn now that every flatterer
    Lives at the cost of those who give him credit.
    That lesson’s worth a cheese no doubt, so don’t forget it!”
    The crow, in shame and deep chagrin,
    Swore, a bit late, never again to be taken in.

    The Flight of Geese

    Christian Moullec with the Geese
    http://www.youtube.com

    • What treats, Josette! Although I must admit, my crows would never be taken in by any fox, no matter how foxy. They are the most careful, skittish birds I know, unswayed by all soft tones and delicious treats, and it took me a long, long time to catch their attention.

  4. elma

    I am so sorry for the link :
    Christian Moullec with the Geese
    http://www.youtube.com

    • The geese think he is their mother, right? They’ll follow him anywhere. Strange how many birds do this, imprint on their first face– I guess it’s a good adaptation, though. (That old song– “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.”)

  5. Mmm, that was delicious. I like when you do the poetry.

    I saw that episode of Nova about how smart crows are, and I thought of you and your quest. It’s hard to believe your new friends can make and use tools. You have awfully good taste.

    • Crows are the perfect pets– they don’t need you at all. The perfect choice for a person who doesn’t mind a cold shoulder. I think to them I am just a tool– a food-bringing tool. (I don’t know if I’ve seen the Nova– I’ll have to go look!)

    • Ré puts it perfectly: I too, like it “when you do the poetry.” I’m still remembering your train piece.

      Also, I love that painting.

      Do you know, I liked crows before, but now I think of you and your writing whenever I see one? :)

  6. This was absolutely wonderful. I’ve read it several times now, and with each reading I find something new to love. Such a strange, eery connection you’ve made.

  7. This is lovely, and eery. It reminded me of the classic Hitchcock film, “The Birds”.

    Favorite line:

    viii. That cagey strut down the painted line, tycoons with thumbs hooked in back pockets; the terrible elegance of a hobo in a top hat or a tap dancing prizefighter.

    The comparisons are so unusual, but they make perfect sense.

    I read this poem once, in a poetry class in college:
    http://writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/88/stevens-13ways.html

    There really is something so fascinating about black birds, something we can relate to or connect with.

    Beautiful poem. :)

  8. Great poem, Anna. Loved it. Crows are scary aloof.

  9. PS. Have I mentioned that in Tamora Pierce’s Trickster novels, there is a character who is a crow-man? He’s a crow, but he changed into a man to be with the (human) woman he loves. I don’t know if you’re a fantasy person at all, but I love Pierce. As far as crows go, almost better than the novels is a short story in her collection Tortall and Other Lands, in which the crow-man (his name is Nawat) and his wife have children (to her relief, they come out as babies, not eggs), and there ensues a cultural conflict of sorts. He has very definite ideas about what crow babies need (diapers are unhygienic, for example; a crow never soils the nest), and this puts him at odds with others in their community. It’s a delightful story.

    • I will have to read that. I hope I do– it sounds wonderful! (Is it appropriate for an 11 year-old, do you think?)

      • Well, it depends on the 11-year-old, but it would have been too much for me, since it has a birth scene. I think in general Pierce’s books are on the mature side for YA; characters have sex and stuff like that (careful, considered sex after obtaining protective charms from healing women!). But for a teenager they’d be great, and I love them.

  10. number iii is my fave. loved this.

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