Jhe afternoon sky is still blue, me and Charlie on the ground. To the crows in the woods across the creek, we are small. We are commoners with no interest in the gods of the Forest. And that I understand / it doesn’t hurt my feelings. We’re together right now, the kid and me. 8 years plus 50 years = 58 years. So collectively we’re probably older than almost all of the Crow, except maybe the king himself. Or the queen. But who cares. The King of Crows and Queen of Crows would probably take a moment to bow their heads in acknowledgment of what is about to happen if they were actually out there in the treetops with this cackling group today . They probably aren’t. I mean, the head honcho Crows doesn’t waste time yelling at vultures and shit like this band does.
King crows live in hollowed-out trees filled with shiny-beaked dimes and tiny rounded balls of foil breakfast sandwich and lost Honda keys and small plastic Civil war soldiers aiming muskets with ridiculously curved barrels at their own knees.
The main ravens/ the raven god/ they grow fantastically huge on the half-eaten donuts and big wads of Italian hoagie that the peasant ravens bring to them, endlessly. An endless stream inspired by blind allegiance. Some call it true love. Some: a kind of wild patriotism. Me? I call it madness. These regular ravens make these raven gods fat like foie gras geese, and then fatter, until the once-shaped bird, chosen and selected by murder to lead them, begins to grow in the space of the tree trunk, going blind after years in total darkness. , until the day he can’t move at all. Oversized in a way that keeps him stuck in the Hollow Trunk Palace forever, he can only look up to where they know the High Hole to the World, even though they can no longer witness his light / of its wonders and promises. They look at him / don’t see him anymore / and they are angry inside at what the lust for power has done to them. It’s understandable. I mean, damn.
Fat and immobile and utterly dependent on their immensely loyal subjects for survival, they yearn to hear the voices of the elegant, the mobile, and the beautiful when they return from their hunts and regularly perch on the crest of the High Hole to the World.
“A lowly fallen salt popcorn spout for My Lord!” announces the Watch Crow as the Hunter Crow drops it into The Supreme Dark.
“A humble spout of fresh river water for My Lady!”
“A humble gift of coins for My Lord!”
“A humble gift of a Michelob bottle stopper for My Lady!”
And the shit rains down on their big heads and they shout new orders, licking the drink / lapping the food / getting buried, slowly but surely, under the growing weight of these gifts from a land they still rule but will never see Again.
Anyway, me and Charlie don’t care. Why would we?
Fuck everyone. Fuck the crows. To hell with the government. Fuck the churches and the ice cream trucks and the armies on the other side of the world pouring lead into each other’s soft skin. Fuck the cowboys in their vans chasing me down the valley road because they’re so mad at the universe for the size of their baby wangs. To hell with the police. Fuck frozen pizza makers. Fuck the doctors and fuck their rude ways. And fuck professional footballers and also college footballers.
Fuck college football.
I mean, the dream is short.
And there’s no room in the dream for it all Penn State Saturday morning traffic around here.
Fuck your crowded giant Coors Lite White Claw weird hibachi sausage Nittany Lion cult motorhome.
Put it in your ass.
Drop it from the beak of a good crow / Drop it in the hollow darkness of your margarita buzz Gameday tree trunk / Drop it like it’s hot / 5 tons long high winnebago crashing down on you fat trapped bastards / 100,000 people cheering at once watching you swallow an RV whole like it was a gummy worm one bright and happy morning on the tailgate when the world was lying to each other , of course, to himself.
Fuck all this pageantry.
We are all dying as we speak.
You know what I mean?
I’m just kidding.
I don’t care what you do.
Watch all the fucking college football you want.
Soon we will be gone.
Soon they’ll be watching college football without you / parking the RV at the old spot / warming up clam chowder and chili in crockpots at the places you once stood listening to the dan of steel or the Smoke Robinson or the MacFleetwood on the Bluetooth/ and it will be like you were never there to begin with.
Which – by the way – is also true.
In any event.
Me and Charlie walk through the garden to the church parking lot to play football. It’s Charlie’s request and today it seems to come to me in a strange burst of magic. In the house, I was lying on my bed, I felt blue, I felt discouraged by things/by money problems and by work and by my own worth/I wondered if my death would be in somehow better for children, or for Arle/ when something woke me up. Got me moving. Moved me. Trips made. Cinema man.
Came down to meet the school bus and that was the old thing, man. The old sounds. The faded churning of distant acceleration. The rising rush of the engine’s dirty song. The hum ahead / yellow and black / promise of afternoon / train on the track. Two 8-year-olds, Piper and Charlie. Son-in-law and son, respectively / but son and son, indeed. In the front room, right by the front door, with the dogs snapping their long nails on the faux wood floor, I stood there determined not to kill myself again because I could hear their voices screamed with joy as they left the bus to the street, then the street to the sidewalk. Then their kicks slam on the sidewalk. The wap wap wap Wap WapWap WAp WAp WAp WAP WAP WAP WAPWAPWAPWAP!WAP!WAP!WAP! as they get closer to our porch, our home, where we mostly live together, and where we intertwine and immerse ourselves in each other’s world. I was standing there in the middle of all this Halloween decorations we put up / black cats and worried ghosts and hideous witches with their warty faces and bumping bodies under all that creepy cape shit (who knew? ) / I stood there listening to the arrival of the happy sloppy child’s foot rag coming down the block.
Everything has probably happened like this in this exact place before. Over the years, in this century-old house, how many people have heard this same thing? This rhythm of youth. That drumbeat of a song ending with a new one being born. Count it. Count us. Let’s go. The band started again and the color flowed back into the world just as it had flowed / all the blues, greens, yellows and reds flowed out with a fake twilight settling over the whole damn town. Now it comes roaring back / the next song / 1-2-3-4!
Maybe I stop dead and lift RVs and throw them aside like logs of firewood because I’m trying to clear a fucking path for some truth. Have you ever thought about that, hoss? You ever thought maybe I’m trying to be on the race track of these younger kids of mine as they speed through the afternoon door/ snacks on their minds/ YouTube in their minds / pounding the old porch boards / their booming sneakers now like cannons opening in the fields near the Amish farms?
Their dirty, cheap trainers banged on the old planks of the porch like the rifle shots of skirmishers in the shade of the cornfields. Pulling on me for so long. Pulling on us through the years of rest / through these buried centuries.
Boom Boom Boom Boom Boom!
Screaming so loud / screaming shrill / packs on your back / rebels crashing through their lines / these kids I know come storming through the door and they’re covered in gunpowder dust and war grease and brains spattered and the skull stains of good friends who took it in the face / right next to these two! / my boys living like other boys fell / and here I am / once again / trying not to dream so much transcendental mysticism in, like, the fucking kids getting off that fucking school bus like they do every day/ but it’s useless, I guess.
I can not stop.
I can’t stop trying to stay alive, you know? And that’s obviously how I do it. How I keep holding on for now.
I pour on the theater. I Civil war everyone fucking. I Gettysburg me pissing on a tree in the woods at work and creating crow kingdoms in my head while toasting an ice cream waffle for my daughter-in-law at 7 a.m. on a mundane Tuesday when all that has always been and always will seem intrinsically linked to me suddenly because:
It turns out yes.
The links are there, they are real. I didn’t imagine this thing.
Tell me the truth, man.
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Serge Bielanko lives in a small town in Pennsylvania with an incredible wife who is out of his league and a multitude of exceptional children who still love him even when he is a lot. Each week, he shares his thoughts on life, relationships, parenting, baseball, music, mental health, the Civil War, and anything that revolves around his noggin. Once in a blue Muskie Moon, he steps away from the computer, straps on a guitar, and plays rock ‘n’ roll with his brother Dave and their bandmates in Marah.