(March 12,1991 / Regina, SK)

Torch Bearers (Extremely Old) .

The storm wafted away to reveal the setting. A farmhouse painted abandoned in the wakes of the rooster in the early renaissance of spring. The sunlight hardly skimmed the surface of the horizon as it illuminated a raven’s silhouette. The bird had been through so many storms, so many hails of shotguns, and so many felines and motors that it appeared to be as ancient as the farmhouse itself. Like the falling down structure, it had patches of itself missing – torn away feathers, a chipped beak, and a wounded leg. One wing was winded and withering away, so much so that when it flew it was lopsided like a painting hung in an insensitive hurry. Despite all of this, it was alive. More alive, even, then it had ever felt in long-ago flights through the windiest of weather. And you could tell. You could see the vivacity in its sharp eyes; you could recognize the living wisdom before you even noticed the dilapidated wings.
It was perched atop a scarecrow’s decaying arm, contemplating what it would do now that the rabbit had gone. It was not exactly sure whereto it had disappeared, but it had left the sun looking so much brighter.
The raven was always watching that rabbit like a mother watches her child at a crowded amusement park, waiting for the rabbit to notice its watchful gaze. Harm was not in the bird’s mind. It was simply fascinated by the rabbit, wondering how it could hop so wonderfully fast when frightened, wishing it could feel the white fur that laced the rabbit’s back. But the rabbit, too engrossed in its own beauty and mysterious world, never noticed the raven. Sometimes it saw a black shadow out of the corner of its eye, and waved it off as hazardous – nothing it could eat – and decided to pay no heed to it. Finally the bird had been so weighed down by the wistful longing it felt that it needed to fulfill the desires it had to make contact with the breathtaking ears. It swooped down in a desperate rage, a bullet to a victim’s chest, desperately reaching out to caress the rabbit. Mistakenly terrified, the rabbit disappeared in a cloud of dirt, leaving the raven utterly bewildered and miserable as it collided with the ground like an atomic bomb.
For days it dozed in the dirt, dejected, angry at itself and the rabbit, swearing it would never become fascinated with another living thing again. One morning, as it croaked into the wind, a small figure appeared in the distance, its tiny fuzzy nose twitching as it carefully skipped along the field. The raven, forgetting all of its valuable promises to itself, lifted its head hopefully. Again, it admiringly stared at the oblivious rabbit, torturing itself little by little, until again, it soared in hopefulness, speeding towards the furry creature. This time the rabbit didn’t budge. It stared observantly at the raven, and sniffed the bird in acknowledgment. The raven was dumbfounded, and followed the rabbit around for weeks. The rabbit never paid much attention to it, yet the raven was blissful, stricken with an arrow that made it feel like it was floating somewhere in a dream.
During the angry toddler fit of a heavy rain, the rabbit had decided that it valued only its solitude, and that the raven, a decidedly pesky little thing, was becoming a nuisance. It turned around and bit the raven’s leg, forcefully, and ignorantly sped away. The raven was stranded in the throes of confusion. For months on end, it distanced itself from the rabbit, terrified to even approach it. It still watched yearningly from the stuffed scarecrow, dreaming of the day when the rabbit would finally accept it. The rabbit had plans of its own. No matter how the raven tried to approach it, the rabbit would reject the raven cruelly, and during those days that they spoke not to each other, it would hardly give a thought to the bird. These situations went on and off for months, but everything must change.
One morning the raven attended its usual post, and waited for the rabbit to do its morningly routine in the field. It had another scheme to lure the rabbit, and it was as determined as a soldier at war. But the rabbit never appeared. The raven was disorientated, but decided to reason with itself, certain that this would be a wonderful opportunity to forget its past mistakes. Though it knew the dangers of the surrounding highways, and the fact that maybe the rabbit had met with one of these perils, it worried not. After awhile, it began to find the pieces of its precedent self. It transformed back into the beautiful ebony bird it once was, no longer trying to be the rabbit it could never be. It was only fearful that the rabbit would return and once more steal its identity, but it tried not to think of this.
And so there it sat once more, looking out into the endless empty canola fields, still yearning for something that maybe one day it would find. At least now it knew to never pine for one who was ignorantly content with itself when it had never fully lived. It had had marvelously perfect fur, but it had never lived the thrill of escaping a cat’s chase. Its nose was in perfect structure, and yet it had not traveled great distances and spoke wisdoms to other creatures while learning new ones. It hopped in perfect composition and yet it had never escaped a creature’s biggest fear – man.
So the raven cawed in exquisite cadence and, somewhere in the distance, another raven replied in an equally perfect rhythm.

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Mary Elizabeth Frye

Do Not Stand At My Grave And Weep

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