Photo by the author.

What the Crows Bring

Gavin Paul
Human Parts
Published in
8 min readSep 7, 2023

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Do they think about you?

This is what it’s really about. Chiseled into iron skies or churning leaves from bronze to gold, is there any splinter in time they think about you? Just some ill-formed, shadowy sense of you dropping handfuls of dog food into the crook halfway up the trunk of the old tree out front. You think they would like that word, crook. They don’t need to remember you forever or have a name for you that they murmur to one another amidst the cold blades of morning light. You just need to know that they think about you from time to time, that they have plotted you on the spectral maps they carry in their mind’s inky eye.

You read about that girl down in Seattle, the way she and her dad scatter handfuls of peanuts across the back lawn each morning. The article called it a ritual. The local crows were so impressed and so grateful that they started bringing this girl secret treasures, nestling bone shards and hollowed crab claws and broken earrings in the grass and dirt with what you can only assume is great care and forethought. Now the girl has a little museum of wonders, a catalogue of trinkets and glassy orbs that grows with the imperceptible steadiness of a living thing. Some suggest the birds are driven by mere instinct — this is happening at the level of synapses and dopamine, nothing profound about it, nothing to do with the girl. But you think about words like message and transmission and code. The gift-giving seems like the fulfillment of some ancient prophecy borne aloft on every dark wing, in blood, in marrow. You are very jealous of the girl in Seattle.

Photo by the author.

Upstairs in your office you strain to hear them through the window, anxious for the clatter of foot clutching gutter, the gentle thud of desiccated foodstuffs being hidden in the murk of this week’s rainfall. The piercing caw caw caw is what everyone learns to despise, but it doesn’t take long for you to realize that the crows have so much more to say, once you teach yourself to really listen. There are subtler wavelengths in play, a sonorous world that has been waiting for you for your entire life, and you’ve been sleepwalking for too long. And so you learn to sift their rusty whispers from the…

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Gavin Paul
Human Parts

English Professor. Author of "Conspiracy of One," a small book of short stories, and “The Coward," a collection of essays. amazon.com/author/gavinpaul