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Thursday, December 18, 2014


by Jonathan Travelstead

Image source: WebEcoist

Want to catch an illegal alien? Study the crow,
its shiny things. Foil hat. Mirrors, chewing gum wrappers
wadded in nests.

We haven't been family for three hundred million years.
Their minds are closer to the lizard brain
where we parted ways, descending different trees.

Yet watch them make tools from straws they use,
solving riddles which require up to eight steps of critical thinking
to deftly pincer out the strip of raw beef.

Crafty. Pistachio, floating in a glass. I watched a crow fly
between an alley and a picnic table, plinking pebbles
and small stones until enough water

displaced the nut to within reach of its beak.
They're smarter than you. We haven't evolved in the right direction
to distinguish their motivations.

Pepper them with shot, and they remember, tell the next
generation about the change in route and elevation.
Screen a dome over the tomatoes walled within your garden

and a few tunnel the fence, but first send scouts
proficient in the killdeer's portrayal of a broken wing
along your flank, divert you while a murder

marches on the front gate. They'll rob you blind. In Arizona,
I hear blackberry pies vanish from windows.
Sheets hanging on the line disappear.

Canadian fishermen drop lines into holes
rough-cut in ice, later report their lines drawn up in a spaghetti tangle
of nylon, scales, and black feathers on the red snow.

Crow, rook, blackbird, raven- call them what you want.
Hell, my Chevy broke down near Roswell and one completed
my solenoid's broken circuit with a flat-head,

then wouldn't take a dime! Each can do the job of ten men.
They don't think like we do.

They don't need much.

Jonathan Travelstead served in the Air Force National Guard for six years as a firefighter and currently works as a full-time firefighter for the city of Murphysboro. Having finished his MFA at Southern Illinois University of Carbondale, he now works on an old dirt-bike he hopes will one day get him to the salt flats of Bolivia. He has published work in The Iowa Review and on among others, and his first collection How We Bury Our Dead by Cobalt/Thumbnail Press is forthcoming in February, 2015.