The crow can count, we’ve heard of birds gifted with mathematics, the crow can count. “One, two, three owls”, it counts, except in corvine monosyllabic, not English. It lets the entire village know, “One, two, three owls”, its shrieks-and-cacks worse than those of any doomsayer, any ruddy stumblebum, any witch stirring any cauldron in the vicinity of any petrified shrubbery. I hear, you hear, we hear; the one, two, three owls hear the crow’s actuarial deductions. The mother owl spreads her wings so wide, she resembles a blanket of owl, a shocking feathery shroud that will, one day, envelop an entire tree full of crows in a Middle Ages swoop so feral and exacting, the crow community will, one day, lament the owl-action in mournful ethnic dirges as somber as the southern sun embalming the tintypes of vellum clouds. (We speak of American crows, great horned owls.) For now, though, the owl must impress the growing ruckus of crows with its tomfoolery attack, beak clacking with the violence of its imagination. The other owls aren’t owls yet, but owlets, white fluffy youngsters who clash heads owing to uncertain footing in their country of air, their sturdy aerie, their dizzying altitude. The crows cackle in the upward-climbing false lightning of a bare tulip poplar, then blow toward the elliptical promises of a compass point, the steam or smoke punched from a solitary chimney. How noise recedes, how the crows assimilate, how the owls stamp down their outrage. In their ensuing vigilance, the owls may enter the luxury of ideas. They think “I am commodity”; they think “What is commodity?” They have simple demands. A wading bird they would like to eat, a rodent they would like to eat, and they do demand, and they will eat, for there is a fourth owl, a father who hunts in the shadow-play of receding fears and quiet plumage. In a few weeks, the one, two, three owls will disembark from the nest, three wrenches of big-talon fabric winging toward a set of (a population of) improvisations. I will see this; you will see; we will see; and as for the crow, the crow can count. No more owls in the aerie, it will note. The danger no longer constrained to a domicile, but three drops of dye (four, to be exact) that strictly color the minutes and seconds of the impulse to covet any direction, whatsoever.
Cultural Affairs Week Editorial Schedule
March 2: Crows & Owls
March 3: I Eat Mushrooms!
March 6: Kits