Making Friends with the Birds

I’ve been thinking a lot about crows recently. My writing partner, Kelly Davio, is working on a novel in verse that includes some use of crows, and helping her with revisions has implanted images of the birds into my brain. Crows have even worked their way into my dreams. After meeting with Kelly yesterday morning, I kept watching the big black birds in my front yard while sipping tea from inside the house. Their open beaks and stocky bodies set a contrast again my neatly manicured lawn.

Last night I dreamt that I climbed a big tree in my mother’s yard in Milwaukee, and sat surrounded by dozens of shiny, black crows, as if I were one of them. I’m not quite sure what this means, but surely it does mean something.

In my work with Kelly, I’ve been trying to understand birds better–the quality of their jerky movements, the way they hop a few times upon landing. Even my dog, Mona, seems transfixed by the way they bob and peck around in the grass. Today I walked into my living room and found Mona with her nose pressed against the glass, patrolling from indoors as a crowd of the common birds congregated near my front door.

These dark birds could symbolize many things, but I’m going to take their presence in my yard as a good omen—confirmation of healthy soil and trees. Considering our past, Mona and I are glad for the company.

Below is a poem I couldn’t help but remember today with all this bird activity. It seems that I’ve always taken pleasure in the sighting of such everyday birds.

But It Would Not Be My Friend


An immature crow patched in gray and black

dropped into my yard. The squat stillness of it

gave my pup a shot at adventure,

her yipping whines alerting me

to the bird in the dirt. Even its downy spots

shined like oil on water’s surface.

I’d kept my dog in all day, hoping

the low-swooping mama and papa crows

would get the little one flying again.

I hear crows make fine pets, thought

I’d look good with a black bird on my shoulder,

eating crumbs from a shirt pocket.

By afternoon, my hourly checks found my crow

trapped by his own weight on the slope, flat on his back.

I used a forked branch, and then a feather duster

to help the baby on his feet.

I tried to make sweet sounds to soothe him.

Overnight he left us, by flight or by death

I won’t know. Rats and raccoons get big here.

Night could have brought either beast into the yard

to steal away my quiet, dark bird.

We would have looked smart as a pair,

our dark hair shining together under the sun.


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