While pushing the grocery cart back to the cart-corral I noticed a crow hopping off but not flying away. As I turned to the car he launched an impressive spew of corvine invective, strutting ever closer to me. The spectacle of so small a creature haranguing one twenty times his size is always amusing. In his journal Thoreau consistently modifies caw with “angry.” Such self-indulgence we would never tolerate in humans. In a crow it’s charming. I realized my cart had blocked the crow’s access to a plump Kaiser roll getting sodden in the rain, so I moved the cart. In his “In a Bird Sanctuary” (The Beautiful Changes and Other Poems, 1947), Richard Wilbur almost gets it wrong:
“It's hard to tell the purpose of a bird:
for relevance it does not seem to try.
No line can trace no flute exemplify
its traveling: it darts without the word.
Who wills devoutly to absorb, contain,
Birds give him pain.”
They are not us but sometimes resemble us. I entirely understood the “purpose” of the parking lot crow. He wasn’t dumb and I wasn’t deaf. His caws caused me to act, so he was not entirely “without the word.” I drove the next day to our storage unit to fetch the Christmas lights and decorations. On the roof of the building across from ours, two crows observed as I loaded boxes in the trunk. They muttered and nodded, interested in my doings, Mr. Bones and Mr. Tambo to my Mr. Interlocutor. They seemed to want nothing but got all the best lines. Wilbur says in his final stanza:
“The liberty of any things becomes
the liberty of all. It also brings
their abolition into anythings.
In order’s name let’s not turn down our thumbs
on routine visions; we must figure out
what all’s about.”