After the Good News, The Raven
“At the end of the glacier
two ravens . . .
At the end of the ice age
show me the way . . .
Flying off alone
flying off alone
flying off alone
— from Gary Snyders’ “Raven’s Beak River: At the End”
Highway 101, On the Way to Dinner
Her black body cartwheels high in the air, her black wings useless as my voice, its reflexive, no, no, no. Driving, I see her ahead. My head is full of good news and the sky is scattered with blue petals drifting in a current of cumulus clouds. For miles, I flowed, following a big rig, pulled along in its slipstream.
Milliseconds earlier Raven was a fact in my mind at road’s edge beside a clump of fur, blood staining pavement. She was a shimmering darkness, the black shell of her beak tearing at the fresh death, her own good news.Her feathers thrashed like black weeds in the exhaust of cars rushing by as she hunched over her meat.
We all take risks to satisfy some hunger. She looked up, a scrap dangling from her shiny mandibles, and her black eyes found me.Yes, I see you.
Suddenly her body is a black rag tumbling, and her wings, black sails shredding. My mouth, mindless, already knows the red wine waiting won’t taste easy.
Punched loose, a flurry of black plumes and downy fragments arc and spiral, as if one raven splintered into many. She lands as a black pile in the lane beside me. Her wings fall open—long black palms, saucers of black air, puddles of iridescent black light—as another car flies over her.
There is a moment when joy and defeat coexist. I am this white skin hugged to my own arrhythmic pulse, hungry, thinking celebration, and I am the black body of this raven, belly half full, suddenly lifted into the path of a massive truck.
Nothing to do but keep driving. One black feather is a strange smile pressed to the windshield.