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The Crows Come Home May 16, 2013

Posted by The Typist in Crow, cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, Toulouse Street.
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Crow

The crowds are long gone, and the end of the noisy disassembly of the tents is almost done. The neighborhood crows who roost somewhere back around Maurepas Street, are once again calling in the morning although I have not spotted one yet. You would think the garbage feast of Jazz Fest would be a prime time of year for the Fortin Street crows but every year they leave for some spot unknown. Perhaps it was not just the distraction and exhaustion of living across from carnival for two weeks but also their absence which has kept me from writing much, here or elsewhere.

Welcome home, brothers. I have stories for you.

“13 Crows”

13.
Black sinner that I am,
lay me out
naked as I came.
Let them feed
& I’ll       fly away
laughing.

It hardly rains in Eureka, California February 25, 2013

Posted by The Typist in Bayou St. John, Crow, cryptical envelopment, Fortin Street, Louisiana, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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Certainly it’s rainy west of the Cascades: Oregon, Washington, Northern California; all those dreary grey days, redwoods and ferns, heroin and grunge. Portland and Seattle are the sentimental favorites. Along the Hurricane Coast it rains buckets, pissing pythons my girlfriend’s text message said the other night. It’s February 24th and we have had twenty cloudy days and thirteen of rain, including Mardi Gras Day. January we had twenty-six cloudy days, thirteen of rain. December: twenty cloudy days and eleven of rain. You get the idea. A rain of frogs would be an interesting relief.

Winter here makes you long for summer when the unrelenting heat and humidity are relieved by the afternoon monsoons, the fairly regular afternoon thunderstorms, watching the inbound cumulonimbus crowning over the coastal wetlands and the lake, the dense tropical splendor of the cooling downdrafts and downpours. One night not long after the flood I was stopped on a dark Marconi Avenue (the lights not yet restored) by a parade of ducks crossing the road to see what the raucous chorus of frogs were singing about in the small wetland that lies between the road and the levee. I rolled down the window and stopped the engine in the middle of the then-deserted road and simply listened in the cool aftermath, watched the egrets high-stepping through this cypress-studded niche eco-system.

The black sky is just turning gray as I write this but I can already hear the crows calling the laggards over the breakfast at the racetrack stables. When it’s this wet the seagulls will be with them, and I can stand just inside my door with a cigarette and watch their chessboard battle over the soggy infield and the best bits left by the horses. If I were a true naturalist masochist I could grab my hurricane slicker and an umbrella and walk the blocks to the park and watch the pelicans over the bayou but I have an inexplicable love of crows, love to watch the stark battle of black versus white against the gray sky. I don’t understand the attraction for the seagulls with the bayou a half-dozen blocks over. I understand the attraction to me, to stand with the heat of the house pouring out behind me just under shelter from the next downpour watching the crows loud party. We are rather fond of large and animated dinners down here.

Crow’s First Lesson November 12, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, Crow, cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, Toulouse Street.
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I have my own personal fascination with crows, going back to the days when I saw the raven on the Grateful Dead’s Wake of the Flood and learned that these birds were not creatures of darkness or evil in all cultures. In Native cultures of North America Crow is a trickster (always fascinating creatures) but also bearer of messages from this and other worlds, keepers of secrets who could help one discover their own true self, and harbingers of change and agents of healing.

It’s strange, but I don’t remember New Orleans being so thick with crows the first 30 years of my life but today they are everywhere. Perhaps, since I have developed this fascination, I just notice them more. I asked my son if he didn’t think it Odd that just about anywhere you look, there’s a crow. He said he didn’t notice that. Perhaps it is my own fascination. Or are we a city where too many people die, a city going through an ordeal of rebirth and self-rediscovery and deeply in need of healing. Perhaps it is only natural that we would be a rookery of crows.

I started writing a series of Crow poems before I learned of (or remembered) Ted Hughes book, and immediately had to have a copy. His vision of a chaotic and godless world of random luck and death is tempered not by Wallace Steven’s vision of man as poet bringing order to the cosmos but of Crow in his trickster guise wreaking unintentional havoc. which is something humans are quite good at. And in that role the tricksters is, in the end, innocent. He is only acting on his nature.

Enough of your tricks, Brother Crow. Please tell me where my copy of Crow is hidden.

By Ted Hughes

God tried to teach Crow how to talk.
‘Love,’ said God. ‘Say, Love.’
Crow gaped, and the white shark crashed into the sea
And went rolling downwards, discovering its own depth.

‘No, no,’ said God. ‘Say Love. Now try it. LOVE.’
Crow gaped, and a bluefly, a tsetse, a mosquito
Zoomed out and down
To their sundry flesh-pots.

‘A final try,’ said God. ‘Now, LOVE.’
Crow convulsed, gaped, retched and
Man’s bodiless prodigious head
Bulbed out onto the earth, with swiveling eyes,
Jabbering protest–

And Crow retched again, before God could stop him.
And woman’s vulva dropped over man’s neck and tightened.
The two struggled together on the grass.
God struggled to part them, cursed, wept–

Crow flew guiltily off.

Its Black Eye August 6, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Crow, cryptical envelopment, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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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.

***

Crow Sickened

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
  glare
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