Tag Archives: Crow’s Foot

Crow’s foot VII

The sky is rent. The sun comes through it, seething. Dry wind scours me from the insides out. A tempest, a dust-devil of a life, and my eyes are closed against the stinging of it. I raise my hand partway without intending to. I raise my hand partway against the wind.

It takes my clothes, my hair, my skin. All these excrescenses I was, these trappings, a flexible and sensitive armor against a sullen world, now stripped away. Calcium is left behind, and potassium, and eyes still strangely and illogically moist.

Where cities suppurate across the Mojave desert ravens clump in massive and delinquent flocks, but away from our debris and waste they fly in pairs. Find one in flight, and wait: another will be close. Sometimes they are close enough to ride each other’s bow waves. Sometimes one is a minute behind, and calling to its mate: a raucous rasp.

Rarely a raven flies alone, and then always singing loneliness in its rock tumbler voice, a song to rend the skies, a call left generally unanswered. One came to me last night in sleep, massive and melancholy, and lit on a smooth and pocked Joshua branch.

Liveoak leaves under my bare feet today, humus so deep beneath them that I sank into the earth. Two ravens tumbled in flight above me and brought the dream full back. Raven lit alone on the Joshua tree and preened, I thought, grasped tailfeathers in talons, brought them to his beak. He wore an odd intensity, an odd intent, and pulled out the feather with a pained crow howl.

Raven feather floated prettily to the desert’s floor.

Another feather grasped, hand to mouth, and plucked. Another cry of pain; another blue-black blade made lazy downward arcs.

He stared holes in me, gauging my reaction.

The next one had blood on the quill. It dropped like a stone. He panted hard, eyes wide.

One could make light and pretty trivialities from feathers such as these, fake platitudes to hang on terra cotta walls. Another loss, another step toward flightlessness by hellish increment, and they shine such a stunning blue there on the bright hard soil next to the blackbrush. Black leathery crow’s feet and searing, iterative pain and loss, and I gasped remembering it, loud enough that birds took flight.

Crow’s foot VI

Raven bursts from the leafless cottonwood,
shrill-barking in alarm, and lifted up
with heavy wingbeat. Writhe, the forest floor
in cold leaf-covered ecstasy, drawn up
in wordless sentences flung at the slopes
there, dotted with saguaros. Raven bursts
from the leafless cottonwood, shrill bark
tossed at the hills. The trees tremble below.
Underneath the soil’s chromatic mantle
they are joined, true-melded at the root.
Clouds cover Alnitak, Mintaka shines
in spasms through cloud edges. This is what
no one will understand, this cloud-star tongue,
though it is written plain for them. Beneath
the leaves the roots entwine. The forest floor
in writhing ecstasy of cottonwoods.
Raven bursts from them. A joining and
conjoining. In the eastern indigo
Orion leers, cloud-clad. These are the words
no one will read, though they are written plain:
a climax forest ecstasy. Raven
bursts out shrill-barking in alarm, his shriek
resounding,  joyful joining in the wood.

Crow’s foot V

Why did I leave the safety of the sky?
From this promontory, high and bleak
I once would dive, would tumble toward the rock
and at the last dire second laugh aloft.
Sadness a bitter cold, despair a pyre
on which fine ebon wings are cremated;
crow’s feet transformed to humans’, clumsy shod
and graceless, without sensitivity.
Where once I covered miles with a wing flick,
these days are spent in plodding. Trackless days,
knee-cramp and ankle-breaking days, and I
trace and retrace stray paths. I ran for it,
this old familiar rock, from which I once
would rise in thermal soaring, just a stretch
a flick of leather-creased crow’s feet to kiss
the earth, and up. The way was straight and clear,
and only when I teetered at the brink,
these human arms no use in flight, these hands
stubby, unfeathered, did I turn. Behind
and all around me, delicate and pale
and azure, carpeting the barren earth,
lay a domain of blossoms, heartbreaking
and beautiful, and broken. In my haste
my stupid leaden feet had trampled them,
unseen until the damage had been done.

This is the cost of walking on the earth,
a legacy of hurt, one injury
layered upon another, and I wear
their weight upon my back, a Marley’s Chain
of impotent regret. Better to hop
from rock to barren rock on light crow feet,
black as this heart, uncovering the nests
of birds that lay their eggs upon the ground
and breaking them with swift, decisive strokes
to reach the meat within their splintering shells.

Crow’s foot IV

A heart contracts. Less room in it, and what
was once inside pressed outward. Chamber walls
close in, then stop. A heart expands, it calls
blood in from elsewhere. No return: the way is shut.
The limbs breathe blood, inhale it in great draughts,
come full alive. Air in the carmine flood,
flood in the air. Crow’s wings push off, warm blood
to tinge the skin around the feather shafts,
the blood aloft. The heart aloft. Crow’s feet
are numb where they have grasped too long. Blood aches
through black and taloned fingers. Feeling wakes,
alive again, suffused with sanguine heat,
and tucked under Crow’s breast of velvet night.
Crow’s feet can rest when Crow’s heart is in flight.

Crow’s foot III

It is time, and the killdeer’s cry comes whistling ominous and sad out of the night, attenuated, echoing and away and gone.

Hair on my neck stands up. An owl. Noiseless white wings as soft as thought in stealth approach a grating rasp breathless urgent, and then in stealth departs.

Waves break unseen, wash up in between algae-slicked cobbles, drain back to the bay in silence.

One could spend a lifetime in this single night, night a deep wild territory of the ephemeral. So much of it, all hidden. It is a tapetum knowledge, and beyond us. Instead, I draw the night down around my shoulders.

I draw the night down around my shoulders and my vision clears, but not enough. My chest burns from the inside outward. My eyes are open, but not enough. I long for an illuminated path. My heart is wide, but not enough.

Jet eyes, onyx feathers watch me. Someone else is up too late as well, draped in night and pacing this unlit way amid the glass shards. I glance and am alone again, five strong wingbeats against the dark and silent again.

Crow’s foot II

An endlessness of sand. A world of sand.
Crow lifts Crow’s foot off sun-hot sand, and lifts
the other. Long late light, a last and slanted
longing light, a sandy sun slides down
the slip-face, dune sidelong illuminated.
Wind lofts Crow’s wings, Crow lifted from the sea
of sand, bird borne from barchan, tilts a tip
of wing, then tumbles, topples in the lee
and sheltered slip-face side. A feather-flick
and righted Crow arises, risible,
lands on the crest again. Crow lifts Crow’s foot
off sun-hot sand, and lifts the other one.
Sand scatters, sunset wind. Aloft, Crow leaps,
at last, in late and slanted laughing light.

Crow’s foot

Crow wears a band of silver on his ankle, holds it out to watch it glint in the sun like cool creek water. It is noon. He is the only one out. All others have sought shelter under the canopy of live oak, the leaves beneath the chaparral, Crow the only one among them unafraid to cast a shadow. He is a black body to absorb the sun’s heat, and yet unheated.

His silver studded with stones, turquoise to match the cloudless sky.  He stretches out his leg again, watches sky and water glisten on his ankle.

He flexes claws and brings his foot beneath him again, stretches out his other, naked foot for balance. His feet are beautiful, furrowed skin like charcoal scales, sharp and onyx claws.  As flexible as hands, good for grasping new-hatched thrushes or pulling gate hooks from eye bolts, and sleek. The humans see crow’s feet in the faces of their most seasoned elders, the scars of a learned life spent laughing. Crows’ feet the mark of craft and cunning, crow’s feet a sense of humor made skin and sinew.

He swings down on the branch, holds himself upside down and swinging, the silver falling down around his upper leg as he barks in delight. Sky below his feet and swaying, silver pools above his head. The world so beautifully inverted, he cannot keep from laughing. This is beauty: the world turned upside down. You can keep your lithe ingenues, your florid sunsets and cloying sentiment: beauty is all that cleft in two, a cunning spark suspended by crow’s feet, a fall from a deadly height and then the swoop of wing, the thickening of the air beneath splayed feathers. Seeing air rising within air and climbing on it, sun glinting blue-black as night sky off your feathers? Night colors blazing brilliant from your feathers? Beauty is day turned to night and night to day.

Heart beats furious beneath that dark breast, mind burns in onyx eyes. Beauty a glint of laughter in a bottomless dark eye. He barks again.

Sun above live oak, a thousand suns refracted on the earth below. Grasshoppers leap into the air clicking. Wild oats tawn in the summer heat lean eastward with the breeze, and a wall of fog on the ocean twenty miles west. All this: all this.