Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Queen of Crows"

This poem has been selected in an audience poll as the free epic for the March 6, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl meeting its $200 perk. It came out of a conversation with [personal profile] siliconshaman. It also fills the "share" square in my 2-5-19 card for the [community profile] fluffbingo fest. This poem belongs to the Big One thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem features a major earthquake near the end.

"The Queen of Crows"

[Saturday, May 1, 2010]

Ava Stroud toddled through
Kirke Park, spilling a trail
of cake crumbs and icing.

"Quork?" said a crow,
landing on the lawn.

"Happeee birfday!"
Ava said, waving
the cake at him.

"Quork quork!"
the crow agreed.

It grabbed a chunk
of cake and flew away.

Ava scampered across
the lawn to the playground,
where she found the low slide
intended for toddlers to use.

She crammed more cake
in her mouth, but she got full
before she could finish it.

Setting the last bit on
a rock beside the slide,
she went to play instead.

Two crows fluttered down.
"Quork?" "Quork?" they said.

"I'm done!" Ava said, pointing
to the cake. "Your turn."

The crows pecked the cake
in half, each picked up a piece,
and they flew back to the trees.

"Bye-bye!" Ava said, waving.

[Sunday, June 3, 2012]

When Ava and her family
visited Waterfall Garden Park,
the crows came along too.

No sooner had she settled
at one of the wire tables with
her paper boat of chili nachos
than the black birds began
to hop down the rock walls.

"Quork?" asked a crow.

"If it's in my hand, it's mine,"
Ava said firmly. "If it's on
the ground, it's yours.

"Quork," said the crow,
and began cleaning up
the mess around her feet.

[Sunday, April 27, 2014]

What began as random chance
became a ritual over time.

The crows watched for Ava,
and Ava fed the crows.

She put out birdfeeders
around her back yard, filling
them with nuts and corn.

She bought a water dish
carved from local stone.

She hung nest boxes in
the tall trees of the garden.

Then the crows began
leaving her tributes.

Ava found seashells,
buttons and beads,
bottlecaps, jewelry,
nuts and bolts, bones,
beach glass, marbles,
bits of broken mirrors,
and all kinds of things.

She wasn't sure if these
were gifts, or if the crows
were paying for their food.

However, she did know they
considered her and her family
to be part of their flock.

When Ava's older sister
went on a photography trip
around Rain City and dropped
her lens cap off of a bridge,
a crow picked it up and left it
on the birdfeeder before
she even got home.

The ritual exchange
of food and treasures
continued, and more crows
moved into the neighborhood.

When the droppings became
a problem, Ava discussed it with
her family and their neighbors.

They decided to build a bird tree
from driftwood, complete with
a litter box underneath it filled
with compostable corncob litter.

From the branches they hung
bird toys and a cup of nuts.

Before long, the crows not only
made use of the perch, but also
figured out what a toilet was for
and used that by preference.

Ava's neighbors built bird trees
with litter boxes of their own,
so they could capitalize on
all of that free fertilizer.

The P-Patch found out
and helped people set up
a neighborhood compost unit
in addition to the big bins at
the community garden.

The painter who lived in
the large sharehouse full of
artists on the corner of the block
began to paint the local crows
carrying their treasures.

The neighborhood gallery of
local arts and crafts dedicated
a room to renditions of crows,
which attracted tourists, which
made more money for everyone.

Over time, Ava realized that
she could understand the crows,
and even influence them somewhat.

It began as reading body language
and learning their calls, but it
grew into something more.

Ava spoke to the crows, and
they chattered back at her,
talking and listening in turn,
and it all made sense.

She grew into a tomboy,
all rough-and-tumble play
and practical clothes, with
long crow feathers in her hair
and loud rude calls in her mouth.

"Ava comes by it honestly,"
her mother said. "She takes
after her great-grandfather,
the Birdman of Alcatraz."

The neighbors just nodded,
but word spread through the city
about the girl and her birds.

People began calling her
the Queen of Crows.

[Saturday, May 28, 2016]

Ava and her family went
to the community fair at
Lincoln Park, which had
displays from many towns
scattered around Rain City.

Her baby brother took one look
at the enormous Huey helicopter
from Issaquah Air Search and Rescue
and demanded that they go on a ride.

"We're going to fly!" Ava called
to her crows, grinning. "Watch us."

When they got to the front of the line,
though, the crows suddenly went berserk,
screaming and diving at her family. They
grabbed Ava's hair and pulled upward
as if they wanted to carry her away.

"Get off the ground," she whispered,
translating automatically, then turned
to the pilot and yelled, "Get off the ground!
How many people can this chopper hold?
Cram them in and get the hell up!"

"They have to pay --" the pilot said.

"Screw commerce!" she said.
"Something bad is about to happen.
The crows are warning me, and
I'm warning you. GET US UP!"

"Don't you know who that is, man?"
the copilot said. "It's the Queen of Crows!
If she says take off, we better get gone."

"The Huey can carry thirteen people,
including crew," the pilot said, and
then waved for people to climb in.

"We're taking off," Ava told the crows.
"Get away from the helicopter."

The flock scattered into the air.

The helicopter took off, whacking
through the sky with a tangible sound.

Ava looked down at the park, watching
to see what the crows had warned about.

"Nothing unusual is going on down there,"
the pilot said. "What the hell, kid?"

And then it happened.

The ground rippled
like a green-and-gray sea,
tall buildings swaying like trees.

Then they began to fall.

As the passengers watched
in horror, Rain City collapsed
into rubble, its streets and rails
twisting into broken ribbons.

The park lawns churned
themselves into mud.

The pilot screamed into
his radio. "Mayday, mayday!
A massive earthquake just
leveled Rain City. Scramble
all available SAR teams."

The shaking went on and on.

Over five minutes passed before
the pilot decided that it was
safe to land the helicopter.

Fortunately it didn't need
a runway -- none were left.

The passengers poured out
of the helicopter and then
it thundered aloft again,
doing its actual job.

The crows mobbed
Ava's family again,
frantically preening
everyone to see that
they had survived.

"Go, fly!" Ava said.
"Warn everyone --
spread the word."

The flock scattered.

The word would go out
from crow to crow about
what happened here, and
reach the other people who
could understand them.

Radios and cellphones
might go down, but
the crows could still fly.

It wasn't enough, but
it was what she could do.

Later, Ava would ask them
to help her search the ruins
and locate any survivors.

For now, she and her family
would help as they could.

Lifting her narrow chin,
the Queen of Crows
surveyed her ruined city.

There was work to do.

* * *


Original prompt:
I could just see some soup called the Crow-Queen...

Ava Stroud -- She has tinted skin, brown eyes, and short curly brown hair. She is a descendent of Robert Stroud, the Birdman of Leavenworth. Ava is 8 years old at the time of the Cascadian Cataclysm. She lives in Rain City, Washington. She loves crows and has developed a special relationship with them. She feeds them, and they bring her trinkets.
Origin: Her abilities grew in slowly and are still developing.
Uniform: Play clothes. She wears a lot of things by Tomboy Sawyer and Princess Awesome.
Qualities: Good (+2) Athletic, Good (+2) Naturalistic Intelligence, Good (+2) Tomboy
Poor (-2) Allergic to Cats
Powers: Average (0) Crow Powers
So far Ava can communicate with crows; she has a family bond that interacts with their flock bond. She is less fluent with crows outside her own flock. She can see through their eyes, and has some enhanced avian senses herself. She can't change shape yet, but it is likely to develop later.
Motivation: To help the crows.

In T-America, Robert Stroud developed Sparrow Powers and was eventually released from prison in 1952. He became a respected ornithologist and started a family late in life. Ava is one of his descendants.

Crow Powers include aspects of Corvid Physiology and Avian Manipulation.

* * *

In Rain City, the earthquake begins at 3:58 PM on Saturday, May 28, 2016. It hits 9.2 with intensity XII, hard enough to bounce people and objects off the ground, total devastation. It lasts for 5 minutes 15 seconds. Even some specially reinforced structures have failed, and everything less robust is rubble. Roads and bridges are demolished. The death toll is over 14,000 and injuries over 30,000.

9.0 and above < 1 XI – XII great – extensive damage over broad areas, most buildings destroyed
IX. Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.
X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.
XI. Few, if any (masonry) structures remain standing. Bridges destroyed. Rails bent greatly.
XII. Damage total. Lines of sight and level are distorted. Objects thrown into the air.

In Terramagne-America, an early asexual church was the Seventh Elect Church in Israel, a small religious sect founded in 1922 by a Midwestern preacher named Daniel Sawlt and located in Rain City. Male members wore long hair and beards, and they often went downtown to preach the joys of nonsexuality (including both celibacy and asexuality) on the corner of Pike and Fourth. They also offered to do odd jobs in the neighborhood around the church, which made them very popular. Instead of disbanding, Seventh Elect outgrew its old location and moved to a larger one. In 2008, they sold their secluded property to the Seattle Parks Department's acquisition staff, and it became Kirke Park. “Kirke" is a Nordic word for "church," chosen to honor the site's history.

See a sitemap of Kirke Park. It features a lawn for open play and picnics. The playground includes swings, a taller side for children 5-12, and a shorter slide for toddlers.

Waterfall Garden Park honors people who work for UPS. See a map of the neighborhood and the park itself.

Here is a front view of Ava's house, the white one. The back yard includes birdfeeders and a water dish.

Lincoln Park is one of Rain City's biggest parks at 135 acres. See a sitemap of the park for orienteering.

Crows will eat almost anything, and sometimes conflict with humans. They build big sloppy nests and may be enticed to use a suitable bird house.

A bird tree with a litter box underneath makes it easier to clean up after large birds. Use plant-based litter such as corn cobs for birds.

A community garden allows people to grow some of their own food. P-Patch is a Seattle program for it. Learn how you can start a community garden. Make it as accessible as possible. Where space and/or materials are scarce, consider making part of the garden accessible with wide paved paths and the rest with narrow dirt paths. Providing a wide variety of spaces and structures will maximize the number of people who feel comfortable gardening there.

Backyard composting is great, but not everyone has room for it. Community composting offers other advantages beyond just conserving space. Read about how to do community composing. A 3-bin system gives you one bin for incoming material, one for working compost, and one for finished compost. A 4-bin system keeps one bin empty so that the working pile can be pitched back and forth between two bins to decompose it faster. The more material you process, the more important it becomes to have multiple bins.

Here is a crow painting.

The Issaquah Air Search and Rescue Huey helicopter can carry 13 people including 4 crew members.

"Issaquah" is an anglicized word for a local Native American name, meaning either "the sound of birds," "snake," or "little stream." The city lies east-southeast of Rain City.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, wildlife, writing
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