rapping on my forehead
it’s beginning to leave a bruise
and soon perhaps it’ll benumb the knocking
which wants to get in
sit in the burger joint
say fuck it as i rise to lead the beggary
holding out an outstretched hand
come take it last
so i hobble forth on these cracked and truest wings
hearing fingernails almost click against the glass
the fingers beckoning
and the rest
We're all fucked. I realize that crows are omnivores. However, I have of late seen them all too frequently dining on carrion in the middles of roads. This spectacle, coupled with a study I heard recently about how they can remember and I.D. human features better than any facial recognition software we've devised…this has me worried. They're hungry. They're everywhere. It's going to be a bloodbath.
Hitchcock's movie about this subject – featuring crows, by the way, in one of the most ominous scenes ever designed for the screen – seems pallid to a generation accustomed to high-octane horror. The supernatural and paranormal have superseded nature's ostensibly tamer threats. But think about it for a moment. What are we really going to do when crows in numbers approaching a bee swarm begin to suspect that living flesh may be more appetizing than tire-tainted squirl meat? Sure, you may be able to knock one or two out of the air before your eyes are plucked clean from their sockets. But you're not going to win against an entire murder, ultimately. They use gravity to crack nuts. They know what gravity is!
So watch The Birds with an eye towards preparing for battle. Don't let those waddling black bodies lull you into complacency. When you hear that call-and-response croaking from power lines above, look up to avoid triangulation, but do shield your eyes. Avian Armageddon is imminent. But you don't have to be one of the first to go.
Something is vibrating deep within these walls. I thought it was the window panes for a while. But it’s deeper than that. I hear it downstairs. Maybe it’s in the floor. Or a floor, between the two levels. I can’t quite locate it in a way that I can say what it is that’s vibrating. But it most definitely has to do with the water pipes. Pipes run all over through these old buildings, having been installed and re-installed, and routed and re-routed according to changing needs over decades. Every structural adjustment invites the possibility of degrading stability. Attachments fail, conduits angle, and air is introduced where only water should be. Crooked and imperfect pipes are rumbling deep within these walls. Or perhaps it’s a fan with a shaky blade, spinning around unattended in an adjoining living space. I think the neighbors have a washing machine. It could be the spin cycle that I’m hearing. Especially if they have a great heap of laundry that needs doing. It also sounds like a faint version of the automated garage door we had when I was young, opening each night as my mother returned from work. Garage doors line the lower floors of this building, and people are coming in and out all the time.
Whatever it is…wherever it is…it’s starting to drive me to distraction. I tried to watch a movie tonight, hoping that my hearing and attention would be absorbed by something else. I turned the television volume all the way up, and still I could hear that soft whirring. The neighbors pounded on the door, and when I finally heard them rapping and opened up they kindly asked me to turn down the sound. I said of course. I’m sorry for the trouble. I asked them, since they were already over, if they could come inside and listen with me. They did so, but denied hearing anything. I don’t know if they were being honest or just wanted to escape the awkward situation. They didn’t really stand still enough to hear it, like I asked them to. And one frumpy woman kept breathing, which makes the gentle jack-hammering impossible to hear. But I need someone else to hear it. It’s a light bass-ey sound. Like a muted helicopter rotor. Somewhere in the core of this building it shivers, conducted by these beams and boards, through the air and into my ear. I need to try and sleep for a while now. Tomorrow I’ll call over some friends and see if they can come over and listen.
Little doubt that I am under siege. Yes. There can be no doubt about it at all. Several small ants are wandering around on my front step just outside the door. Not dozens. Definitely not hundreds. There is no line back to some dark and miniature cavern. Just a few black, segmented bodies crawling in random directions. Making ostensibly unmotivated turns, like spies when their target catches a glimpse of them on the street. Bursting briefly with just a little too much artificial effort. Trying for a split second to blend back into the world that they set themselves apart from while waiting. But these ants are not spies. They are scouts.
When I am in my kitchen, thirty feet away but behind two walls and the door, these scouts know it and set up their bulbous physiques like homing beacons. In the kitchen, not that far away, I cook. Sometimes I bake, which inevitably calls for sugar. To make zucchini bread, say. Or basil lime cookies. It is possible to make some of these delicacies without sugar, I suppose. But then I would probably let them sit on the counter, waiting for the first signs of mold so that I could discard them in the garbage. So. Sugar.
Working with sugar never goes as well as one hopes it will. That is to say: perfectly. The transfer from the sugar container to the measuring cup – level, mind you, since baking is a more exact science than cooking generally – and into the mixing bowl is fraught with all manner of obstacles. During the mixing, too, it is probable that the electric mixer or the wooden spoon will throw particles away from the bowl. More! Once absorbed into the milk or egg matter or butter, the sugar becomes undetectable as a discreet substance. And when the inescapable happens…when fate takes hold of the pouring or blending process…when gravity and momentum and trajectories all conspire against the well-intentioned amateur chef…at that moment sugar, solid or liquified, lands on a surface which it was never intended to be on. At that moment – and it cannot be doubted – little black scouts thirty or so feet away all recalibrate their bodies so as to line up facing a common endpoint. I’m fairly certain they raise their posterior thirds up to help.
As quickly as I can in those moments, I swipe up the sugar with a wet sponge and thoroughly dry the area (the sponge must be rinsed and the paper towel placed in a lidded receptacle if the contamination is to be contained and the residual sweetness fully removed from the air). So far I have been swift enough. The scouts don’t seem to have made much headway. But I suspect they are learning, and that eventually this siege will become a full-blown attack. Perhaps I would do better to reckon with the mold.