literatur (beiträge)

• Michael Roloff / THE BEHAVIOR OF CROWS


1] Best friend "Yellow Foot," so I call him for the yellow band 'round his lower left leg [courtesy department of crows] is walking me, he hurriedly, I accommodatingly laid back, across the library court yard, swaying his much-envied, many-layered, many-feathered being, weightily, self-importantly, from left to right, a sailor on a drunken ship, locking his keen right eye on my left coat pocket, with that "what's up, no cookies today?" kind of look as we round the corner by the bicycle racks... my habitué of morsels, who knows where I keep left-over bread and such like, but not enough of a familiar yet to snatch it: even after a year of handouts he keeps his distance, one human foot, six crow paces or three crow hops off, perhaps he recalls his Egyptian captivity in the crow department, still skittish, though demanding. He clucks at me, he natters, he gargles. I assume these to be flattering, seductive communications. If I should caw back, he might take fright, as have many of his brethren. I seem to misspeak or mispronounce their tongue. "Tomorrow," I explain to the insatiable beast," really, I am sorry, I forgot. "He gurgles. I push the automatic entry. The door opens. I look back through the glass. He looks forlorn as am I when he doesn't show - has he succumbed to the flue, has a hawk got him, did he have an unfortunate encounter with a vehicle? Ah, there he is, cleaning his beak of peanut butter in the grass. And walks or flies off, whereas I engross myself in books.

  • "Oh, child of mine, How perfectly you clean your beak after you've made an extracted from the ground ..."
  • "How you soften that hard-tack in rainwater pond..."
  • "How you thwart dehydration..."
  • "How you suffer under the heat, keeping your maw open for ventilation... and there is nothing I can do but give you water..."
  • "How your head bobs back and forth in perfect rhythm with your paces..."
  • "Just like a pigeon, aeh?"
  • "No no, God forbid, far less obsessively than a pigeon."
  • "How you use your wings to feather yourself as you break when you swoop to land."
  • "Better than any plane, aeh?"
  • "For sure, inimitably better! My perfect crow! All of them perfect! Perfect examples of perfection!"

Sometimes, sitting on the bench at the courtyard entrance, keeping an eye out for him to fly in from the deep dark green stand of conifers across the way, as I know he does there wait for me when I walk by below, he surprises me, a black brick plummets from the brink of high court yard rim, breaking his fall at the last amazing, whoosh, elegant upswing moment, better than any Stuka [i.e. Sturzkampf Flieger] ever did. Sometimes a collection of his or her brethren up there just caw and caw and caw. When I overfeed him he squirrels the morsels away. I've seen him outsmart a squirrel for a French fry at a garbage can. I prefer to feed him cellophane wrapped saltine crackers, rapt in admiration of his dexterity, one foot planted on the transparency, his black funnel of a beak, perfect for picking grubs, breaks the membrane, just a few deft pecks, then he eats the shatter of crackers: A great sequence for a saltine cracker ad: The two-and-1/2-inch, square, yellowish pack looks admirable stuck squarely in his beak as he flies off with the treasure Airborne Express, when he feels more like opening it elsewhere or sequestering than over-filling his gut. Sometimes, I am feeding him, a half-dozen brethren fly in from across the street, from the stand of splendid conifers that surround the department of forestry very forest dark brown woodsy buildings. The brethren position themselves on the nearby acorn trees and on the sidewalk, and squawk and bellow at me, each small black bellows pumps itself full of outrage and then emits, lighting the embers in my soul: I could not agree more, and manage to smile at myself as though that will do the trick - it does if I am in the thick, their fury subsides. They are greedy, they load up, they do not share but with their young who exploit them with plaintive "I haven't eaten for a crow's age, I am starved to death" cries even if mom and dad have just stuffed them. When you come on a dead fledgling, dropped out of its nest, unretrieved, you notice ontogenesis recapitulate phylogenises most hideously.

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[Michael Roloff]

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