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[Nonfiction] Bird Here Now

By Michael H. Kew

Wee puffs flit from corvidian croaks—wee clouds from louding wonks—voluminous dents thrust into the still of dawn chill.

wonk! Visuality of spiritbreath—

Between long-interlude sets, the North Pacific is quiet, lakelike—lapping. Slow southeastern Sun levitating and backscratching the tall black serration of Sitka spruce against December dry- spell sky against low seaside ridgeof rocks and holy ravendom.

wonk-wonk! Hunchbacked, he struts and stares.

[bob-weave-bob-weave] wonk!-wonk!-gurgle-gurgle A gurgleriddle?

Raven smarts, yes. Abstract of mind. “Bird-brained” is not an insult. Facing the wave and skirting the cove’s high-tide line lies a thin white film of frozen ocean debossed with talon tracks in loops of inquiry. Back and forth he steps and cross-steps, scruffy neck feathers fluffed, long hooked beak ejecting microexhalations of CO2. Rejecting and acceptingnothing.


After I’d dug a rail and fallen, the leashless single-finned surfboard lazed up onto our shaded gray sand arc of privation. I bodysurfed in and crouched ‘tween board and raven’s saltwater ice patch destined for mist, for ice breath—beach yet to feel the early Sun, itself a spiritual inversion of the Cold Moon just now plunging toward horizon behind our rough tufted cape a half-mile north.

[weave-bob-weave-bob] wonk! Wee clouds.

I smile at him and sit. Pause. Cross-legged, I shift weight to hips, flexing toes inside blood-warmed wombish membrane of bootie juice, fingers in gloved glory, spine straight, gaze fixed out on thesurf. Slowly <inhale> a vast cold lungful.


Amid this floaty tranquillity I note cadent descendence of heart—pulsed heat—and raw upperbody vaporizations through five mils ofblack neoprene.

Dermal mist. The skin breath. wonk!

Ravens—North America’s biggest songbirds. Fey skysingers—spirits—of white magic. Feathered black cats. Playful. Manipulative, communicative, decisive, deducive, emotive. Our twinly twined breaths are blown seaward to mingle ‘mongst sea-smoke evaporations—48° water into 30° air. Morning shadows dance upon the murk—shreds of high cirrus and changeling light mooding offshore against the sheer black crags of basalt. Realm of gull and oystercatcher, murre, puffin, cormorant.

Raven steps from the crust of ice now tickled by clear sunlight and fattening tide—slithery beach breath—the peak of which will soon spawn sloshy backwash and drown the surf spot. In, out,refreshing and energizing, the respiring revolving door ofmoony magnetism.

On the ice’s edge, raven’s head is reflected. Which prompts thoughts of Janus, Roman god of passageways, loomingmonth of January eponym,infamously two-faced animistic spirit.

And my sight eases, soft-focus, blurring to the waves’ rhythmic risings and crashings, the constant cosmic reabsorptions, the cold blues and winter whites wheezing, water the masseuse of sand and rock, the sea’s veneer a gateway, surfing as ceremony.

Flecks of Sun tap sea-stack tippy-tips of Twin Rocks. My eyes slip shut and scene falls mute into an open plane ofsilence. Recall some oldwords by zenmonk mystic Merton: “Prayer?

Prayer is how I breathe…The gate of heaven is everywhere.”



Raven and I—deeply inside.

Michael H Kew is an author and poet who first tapped his writerly destiny as a Californian boy in the mid-1980s. His work has since been featured Earthwide in magazines, newspapers, films, websites, advertisements, and books, including January 2012's Crossings, his first collection of world travel essays. Rainbownesia, his Oceania volume, was published in October 2019. In March 2020, Kew published Nectars of Sky, his premier poetry assemblage, surrealist free-verse based on his two most transformative residencies. April 2021 drew Purpledeneye, an experimental work of formulaic dream poetry; December 2022 birthed travel poesy/photoesy (Incense Gardens). Drafting an East Africa travelogue (Cococandescence, 2023), today Kew dwells and delves at Purpledeneye in the coastal mountains of southern Oregon.


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