After Julie Tremblay’s, Raven, a photograph. Copyright is held by the author.
End of September, and loss moves through the air of Provincetown
like a hurricane. Sidewalks un-peopled, shops the same. We crawl
carefully around sidewalk cracks, inhale the smell of decayed
shellfish, stands full of T-shirts celebrate sexuality. There are photos
for sale everywhere, I spot one of a raven, its dark head bent
as if in prayer. More monk than bird. Its wings ragged, eyes
shut, around its throat a turtleneck of black tuft, beak hung down,
like a dagger against its chest, as if a great war had been lost.
My raven, so alone, I bought it.
Once an old man told me about his raven, how he came to own
such a creature. How it manipulated pullies, pulled rings
from jewelry boxes, unhinged locks and sat with all its darkness
on his arm as he watched TV. The man’s air turned cloudy
as he told of a long trip without his raven. How when he rushed
back to their home, the bird did not speak. He called out
Raven, Raven offered up his arm, the raven toddled down
to his wrist, lay its head against its starless chest, grabbed
the man’s finger inside his great beak crushed it with all its avian
might and hung on. Long minutes passed before the man
I am covered in orange. It’s autumn. The cool air dips into
my shoes. While the skies darken, I wrap my arms up in wool.
Savory smoke lifts from the fireplace. Embers, the colour of corn
and sweet yams snap. I remember the man’s story, as I unpack
my raven place it unframed upon the mantle. It remains stoic,
head bent, open. Familiar as my cockatiel, which my husband
carries up the stairs still covered from the seven-hour drive.
I follow. Call to it. At first softly, then shrill. It warbles,
complains. I place it on my finger where it lays its head
on its chest, nips me twice. Like a warning.