We Raised a Cenotaph for Crows

By Daniel A. Rabuzzi

The day after the big spring storm, all the crows had been tossed from their nests. The trees were many, they were tall, oak and beech, beech and oak. Crow corpses, ground littered with hundreds: heart-smashing sight, jet bodies splayed against bright green oak leaf-debris and silvery-grey stripped beech bark, a black of ink on the page, the black of wisdom, the black of reverence, Benedictine black. Three-hundred-year-old oaks, Louis XIV’s oaks, planted to ensure supply of timber for a navy that no longer required it. Generations of crows– crow-families in place since acorns sprang to saplings, crows calling with Burgundian accents — colonizing oaks, corvine generations inheriting tree-top condos. Like soldiers after battle, grim survivors crawled, half-hopped, over detritus, despair-cawing. We mended them, we treated them, we spoke with them in the old language, the runic tongue, crying as we stepped over eggs ground-shattered. Even their ancient enemies, the foxes, refrained from insult, calling truce to honor the dead. To us, the President of Crows hobbled, lamenting half her people gone in the gale: “My lineage,” she reminded us, “Taught Adam and Eve how to bury Abel”;– we helped her bury her kin in the park but were at a loss about the others. “Thank you, heartlings!” she said. “By oak and beech, by beech and oak, now I need just one more favor”; – two months later, we returned with a wagon’s worth of limestone; we raised a cenotaph to the missing, convened the living, all the crows gathered with emissaries from other colonies, every species represented, even the foxes; the President eulogized the lost, as eloquent as a Senator in the days of Rome. To close, she pulled out one of her own feathers and gave it to us, highest honor her clade bestows: “We are in your debt,” she said, “When you are in need most dire, hold this feather and call for me – we will come.” { A cenotaph to house the memory of our own missing, a massive undertaking, given our scale of losses. } Today we retrieved the crow-feather from our safe-deposit box. Tomorrow, by oak and beech, by beech and oak, we call to the President of Crows.

Daniel A. Rabuzzi has had two novels, five short stories and ten poems published since 2006 (www.danielarabuzzi.com). He lived eight years in Norway, Germany, and France. He has degrees in the study of folklore and mythology, international relations, and European history. He lives in New York City with his artistic partner & spouse, the woodcarver Deborah A. Mills (www.deborahmillswoodcarving.com), and the requisite cat.

Art by Lesley C. Weston (Digital Pastel and Pen)

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