Its Black Eye August 6, 2010Posted by The Typist in Crow, cryptic envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
If you visit here often enough, you have gathered I have a fascination with crows: with Huginn and Muninn (names meaning mind and memory) the servants of Odin, with the totem Crow of the original Americans, with the character of Ted Hughes; book of poetry, with the birds I notice all around me.
And I have wondered since my fascination and entanglement with crows began: why do I never see a dead crow?
And then last Sunday there it was. Not dead, but lying in mid-lane on Esplanade Avenue, on its side and clearly injured or ill. It raised its head to look at the approaching car; no, to look at me with that hard black eye as I bore down on it. I should have stopped, picked it up gently and carried it to the side of the road and with a quiet word twisted its neck and given it piece. I should have found the crook of a tree for it’s final rest, someplace honorable to be given up the elements.
My sister sat beside me in the car, my wife in the back. If I had stopped and done this, I would probably be writing this about now, after my involuntary confinement for observation was over. On Sunday morning all this flashed through my mind in an instant: bird, action, consequences. I drove carefully and slowly over it and went on to brunch with my nephew, who had just returned from a six month tour as a relief work in Haiti.
The look in that dark eye is never going to leave me. I feel as if I were tested and failed, but Crow is as inscrutable as Jehovah and I can never know the right or wrong of it in the view of that black eye, if there was a right or wrong, if I was tested or measured or simply a victim of chance, just another car it lifted its head to watch waiting for the last one. Still, the look in that dark eye is burned into my own; deeper even than that to somewhere inside where the nuns once taught was was a shining white shield spotted black with sin. I long ago rejected their sins. I embrace the Original Sin of Knowledge and if Crow is (in part) Knowledge then what? I think that shield of solid, mortal black now has a hole in it just the size of that eye, a hollowness, a wound: something for which I must atone before it can heal.
And so, against all better judgment, I tell you this story.
Someone who knows better than I says not to worry too much about this. It is not a question of penance, but of that bit of Crow that struck me like an arrow, that bit of his soul he gave to me in that look as he left this world. Use it well, I am told. A burden and a gift sometimes come in the same wrappings, like an ugly sweater from your mother.
Which leads somehow to this poem by Ted Hughes.
His illness was something could not vomit him up.
Unwinding the world like a ball of wool
Found the last end tied round his own finger.
Decided to get death, but whatever
Walked into his ambush
Was always his own body.
Where is this somebody who has me under?
He dived, he journeyed, challenging, climbed and with a
Of hair on end finally met fear.
His eyes sealed up with shock, refusing to see.
With all his strength he struck. He felt the blow.
Horrified, he fell.
– Ted Hughes