~This piece previously appeared in New South, 2011
My habit is to watch for small things. In gentle green grass I spy a single earth-caught feather, arced and crenellated, its knife-edge up. On inspection I see it’s a contour feather, and three inches longer than my hand. The leading edge is rippled and split from use.
A tool, lost, discarded, this single feather, ex-crow. One puzzle-piece of a carapace, densely black. Collectively: a murder of crows. Raven made the world says the Haida legend, but I am no northwest Indian, I have no claim to what some people self-consciously call “first nation.” I am southeastern, urban, and white, third-generation American. My taxonomy is built of flights not my own, but the ground on which I have been placed. In my hand now, this single feather from a crow’s right wing. My own non-hollow, flightless bones are right-dominant; do I feel the sympathetic pluck and plummet here on my own right wing?
This feather, pick it up – lice, vermin silenced by flight, return. This feather pocketed, earth-placed by a window, my own closest place to flight.