Friday, March 11, 2011

`A Meeting of Morticians in Our Trees'

My eight-year-old and I witnessed the gathering of the dawn kaffeeklatsch, accompanied by a variation on “Reveille,” as we stood under the white pine at the bus stop. To the east: solo and chorus, caw and response. Across the blank clouds, commas moved horizontally. A crow in the yellow birch across the street pumped his head and complained. Another in the pine, above our heads, commiserated. I knew they were sharing menus but they sounded like old men kvetching in the park.

“Here’s a meeting
of morticians in our trees.
They agree in klaxon voices:
Things looking good.
The snowfields signify
A landscape of clean skulls,
Seas of Tranquility
Throughout the neighborhood.”

Back at the house, a crow perched on the lid of our overstuffed trash bin at the curb, tearing at the exposed trash bag. He flew away, complaining, as I approached, and returned when I went inside. Through the front window I watched him pull and discard a coffee filter, a ball of aluminum foil and a pencil that had broken in the washer after the eight-year-old mentioned above left it in his pants pocket. By the time I left for school, the bird was still at work but hadn’t yet reached the cat litter.

“Here’s a mined,
A graven wisdom,
A bituminous air.
The first cosmetic pinks
Of dawn amuse them greatly.”

For a week, I’ve watched crows gather on the roof and among the trees around the playground, waiting for the end of recess. Kids drop snacks and lunchroom leftovers, and crows clean it up. It reminds me of the playground scene in The Birds.

“They foresee the expansion of graveyards,
they talk real estate.
Cras, they say,
repeating a rumor
among the whitened branches.”

By the time I got home, my boys had already pulled the trash bins back into the yard, behind the house, but they hadn’t bothered to sweep up the cat litter.

“And the wind, a voiceless thorn,
goes over the details,
making a soft promise
to take our breath away.”

The quoted lines are Anthony Hecht’s “Crows in Winter” (The Transparent Man, 1990).

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