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We’re About to Boil the Eggs When
by Sarah Busse
Fill the pot with cold tap water.
No need to salt it. That comes later.
And out the window in the morning sun
see the crow. See the crow run
humping it fast and low to where—
“Oh holy—” four more crows have found
the nest of rabbits we laid bare
with yesterday’s rake. Small killing ground
no bigger than a golfer’s divot.
Kids in the kitchen, milky tea
and toast. Mom? Mom, what is it?
peck peck peck. They shouldn’t see—
“It’s crows. Just crows.” Protect them. Turn.
Drop the eggs in one by one
gently down so none will crack.
(Blind and squirming life in beak.)
“They found—breakfast.” Wait a beat.
Mom…what do crows eat?
“Small things.” Eggs so easily break
if the hands tremble. peck peck peck.
Here is what I know of crows:
a lame crow, sick, was fed for days,
defended by its mate til dead.
Turn heat to high. Find the lid.
The angel of death has crow-dark wings.
Like us, crows like shiny things.
Like us, they give each other names.
They grieve, they joke, and they play games.
Broad daylight, and the fifth crow, younger,
tilts his head and can’t quite figure
what to do with the little wiggler
he’s fished out—Here comes the mother
tearing across to save the one.
She runs straight at the flock. They lift,
wait, hop down (the eggs are done)
She pants, turns, runs, shifts,
pitched crazy—in a lather.
The crows are lazy. They’re having fun.
Five of them. One of her.
It isn’t fair. How can she win?
She wins. She saves her mangled dear
that morning at least, she staves off fate.
The crow who missed out reappears
to taunt for days, and wait. He waits.
All weekend we keep the kids indoors.
The crippled, blinded baby cries
until the corvid strikes and soars.
This is how a rabbit flies.
Long before that the eggs are done.
Run under water and peel one.
Still hot, mash it on a plate
with olive oil, pepper, salt.
For days I’ll chew the question raw:
her actions bought her kitten pain,
a three days’ nightmare. Was she wrong?
Was I, to shelter my own young?
The writhe of limbs, the flail of spines,
how praise that gift of my kitchen window?
How praise the yolk creamed through the tines:
smooth on the tongue and yellow, yellow.
from Somewhere Piano, Mayapple Press 2012.