A murder of crows caw out of key
(or so it seems to me)
from their perches on the Jacaranda across the street.
One has commandeered the neighbor’s roof peak,
a glimmering blue-black figurehead on a pirate ship,
barking orders to his crew
who respond from the broken-branch juttings of the palm tree
just outside my front door,
positioning them higher than anything on the mesa,
higher than anything else in their world.
A cacophony of caws respond
from the pepper tree in the canyon,
just out of view from my kitchen window.
The crows warn and wait.
Meanwhile, perched as always,
on the same naked branch of the peeling eucalyptus,
that’s rooted in the canyon floor,
far below the lip of the mesa,
Hawk is perfectly positioned for a clear observation
of rodents scampering
between the safety of Chaparral Broom and Opuntia paddles.
From my perch, at the kitchen sink,
hands submerged in dishwater,
eyes watching the hawk
ears hearing the caws outside the open front door,
I imagine how glorious it would be
to be that magnificent predator
who spreads her wings and soars from that branch,
gliding in great arcs on hidden currents.
But now the din of caws rises to a crescendo,
Calling, “Hawk is aloft! Hawk is aloft!”
Quickly, they set upon her,
a relentless squadron of dive-bombers,
coming dangerously close,
though never making contact.
It could almost be an aerial ballet,
if not for the deadly intent.
Hawk swerves in defense.
Surely, a swipe of her talons
could send a crow crashing.
So why does she surrender to this harrowing attack each morning?
Gliding back to her perch
as if she never intended to catch breakfast afterall.
The crows blast a triumphant roar,
and take up sentry posts in a neighboring tree,
tethering Hawk to her perch with just their glares.
Every morning, while I wash breakfast dishes,
this same scenario plays out.
I wonder, if the crows prevent Hawk from devouring Rat,
so that rat will live to devour my tomatoes,
taking one infuriating bite from each fruit,
so that I’m driven to trap and drown that rat
in a bucket of sunflower seed-covered water,
and toss his bloated carcass over the wall, into the canyon.
Fussy Hawk wants her prey on the move,
but scavenger crows will call it a party
and feast noisily on death.
They say crows are very intelligent.
Have they figured out that it is better for them
if I kill and toss the rat,
than it is for Hawk to snare and eat it?
Or is their cause for battle
a pre-emptive defense of their nests?
Are the communal crows a gang of thugs?
Or is solitary Hawk an evil nest robber?
Creatures don’t fight fair,
but they don’t kill needlessly.
It’s always about survival.
Everybody’s right. Nobody’s wrong.
Will I still be living safely in this house,
perched between them,
watching from my kitchen window,
as the seas rise and storms surge,
and the gulls move inland to usurp the crows,
and desperate mamas don’t toss dead rodents over the wall
when they have hungry children to feed?
Ya do what you gotta do, to survive,
when nobody’s right, and everybody’s wrong
in this macabre twist of my imagination
to an otherwise pleasant morning poem.