Friday, December 22, 2006

Pyramus, Thisbe, and Paul Celan

One of the first poems of Paul Celan's that I translated was Wir Lagen, a short poem found in the collection entitled Lichtzwang, Suhrkamp Verlag (Frankfurt am Main, 1970). It is this poem that provides the title to the collection and which, I believe, evokes one of Celan's primary themes-the inability to connect with the other in the face of extreme longing. The other in these poems is unidentified and usually simply appears as "Du." However, the other could be a lover, the mother, God, the Self (in Jungian terms), or Being (in Heideggerian terminology). It is not really important who the "Du" is; instead, the emotions that weld up within the poems, arising from desire, loss, sehnsucht, or mystical yearning, illustrate an almost transcendental need to connect. Similarities in theme exist in the poetry of Rumi and, perhaps more importantly and precisely, to The Song of Solomon.
The following is my translation of Wir Lagen:
We lay
already deep in the shrubs, when you
finally crawled along
but we could not
darken over to you:
it ruled
In Celan, some barrier always exists that frustrates the "ich's" seeking for and uniting with the "Du." In this regard, I believe that the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe provides an important metaphor or trope for Celan and I further believe that he alludes to the myth in the poem, Du Darfst, the first poem in the collection, entitled Atemwende, SuhrkampVerlag (Frankfurt am Main 1967), in order to prepare the reader for an employment of one of his major themes.
The myth of Pyramus and Thisbe emphasizes desire, the frustration of desire, confusion, misunderstanding, loyalty, and the proximate relatedness of thanatos with eros. These themes are established quickly as illustrated by the following quotation from Thomas Bullfinch:
Pyramus was the handsomest youth, and Thisbe the fairest maiden, in all Babylonia, where Semiramis reigned. Their parents occupied adjoining houses; and neighbourhood brought the young people together, and acquaintance ripened into love. They would gladly have married, but their parents forbade. One thing, however, they could not forbid- that love should glow with equal ardour in the bosoms of both. They conversed by signs and glances, and the fire burned more intensely for being covered up.

In the wall that parted the two houses there was a crack, caused by some fault in the structure. No one had remarked it before, but the lovers discovered it. What will not love discover! It afforded a passage to the voice; and tender messages used to pass backward and forward through the gap. As they stood, Pyramus on this side, Thisbe on that, their breaths would mingle. "Cruel wall," they said, "Why do you keep two lovers apart? But we will not be ungrateful. We owe you, we confess, the privilege of transmitting loving words to willing, ears." Such words they uttered on different sides of the wall; and when night came and they must say farewell, they pressed their lips upon the wall, she on her side, he on his, as they could come no nearer.
As we progress in our discussion of Celan's poetry, we should remember the wall separating the lovers and the crack in that wall that provides the means of communication, imperfect though it might be.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Paper Making, Etching, and the Mulberry in Celan

Paul Celan’s poetry, more often than not, causes me to slow down, to meditate on the images, and once I think that I have grasped their meaning, they surprise me and turn me in another direction. This surprise usually springs from a trap of images. In reading and re-reading the first poem of Atemwende, SuhrkampVerlag (Frankfurt am Main 1967), I thought I had tripped the spring and that the trap of meaning was sprung; however, through an accident really, I discovered yet another meaning behind the word-Maulbeerbaum. I happened onto a book that I read in 1965, when I was in middle school, entitled The Black Rose (1945), by the Canadian novelist, Thomas Costain. In that novel Costain describes, in some detail, Chinese paper making techniques, which depend upon the use of mulberry bark. Suddenly the line-sooft ich Schulter an Schulter/ mit dem Maulbeerbaum-ushers us into the realm of the literary. Perhaps, Celan is saying that “You may celebrate me because I have walked shoulder to shoulder with paper-with the page, with poetry.
Nevertheless, even though you may celebrate him for his literary excursion, the “leaf” still cries out. We know from prior explications that "leaf," often refers to the poet; consequently, we have yet another possible meaning for the poem. We also have the obvious connection between "Blatt" from tree and "Blatt (leaf) of paper. In fact, the use of the word Blatt in regard to paper and writing is as rich or richer in German than in English.
Finally, as an aside and for future consideration, etching is an image that permeates the collection-Atemwende. Etching and papermaking are handmade arts that have a physicality to them, which I believe, as images, thematically emerge.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Mulberry" in Paul Celan's "Du Darfst"

In my last post, I discussed primarily the first two lines of the first poem of Paul Celan’s Atemwende, SuhrkampVerlag (Frankfurt am Main 1967). In our discussion, I focused on “snow” and the verb “bewirten.” Now I turn, to the last four lines, which, through the image of “summer,” “Mulberry tree” and “leaf,” stand in opposition to the first two lines but also offer a reason, a rationale, and an explanation for the coming celebration in “snow.” Additionally, Celan’s rhetorical choice to use a “colon” between the first two lines and the last four demonstrates his grammatical intent to have the last four lines explain, express, define, resolve, and, most importantly precede, the first two lines.

In temporal and causative terms, the first two lines precede the action of the last four and, thereby, figuratively put the cart before the horse. In other words, the grammar of the poem actually states that in this thought-“because I often strode shoulder and shoulder with the mulberry tree, you may, if you wish, regale me with snow.” However, another phrase, modifying mulberry tree, twists the meaning and adds perhaps a further explanation to the expression of the first two lines. As the “ich” walks with the mulberry tree on an equal footing, the mulberry’s youngest leaf “screamed, shrieked, screeched, moaned, or called out.” The poem begs the question-did the youngest leaf cry out because the “ich” walked with the mulberry tree or did the “ich” hear the youngest leaf cry out because he often walked with the mulberry tree.

The action of the poem, like nearly every other Celan poem, is charged by his use of surrealistic images. Here, one is regaled or celebrated with snow; one walks shoulder to shoulder with a mulberry tree; and a leaf shrieks or cries out. Celan, however, is not a surrealist, although he uses their techniques. I would argue that there is a clear meaning beneath his images, drawing him closer to the symbolists than to the surrealists. Here, he chooses the mulberry tree for several reasons. One, the mulberry tree exists only in the tropics and warmer climates. Two, the mulberry tree grows fast when young and slows down as it ages. Three, the mulberry leaves are tasty and are used as nourishment for silk worms. Four, according to Ovid the mulberry tree is connected to the legend of Pyramus and Thisbe, a tale of tragic love. Five, the mulberry tree is a member or the moraceae family, which also includes the breadfruit, an image that appears again in this collection.

In the next post, I will continue our discussion by applying each one of the five reasons to the poem in an attempt to approach its meaning and show how the misunderstanding between Pyramus and Thisbe is repeated in images contained in other Celan poems.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Entry into Paul Celan's "Atemwende"

The first line in prose or the first poem in a collection of poetry should establish the tone and the theme of the entire work and provide a way for the reader to enter the work. So, when I read someone else’s prose or poetry, I pay attention to the first sentence or the first poem that is, in effect, the first stitch in the artist’s written tapestry. In other words, I hold its beginning throughout the reading.

In this regard, I recently spent an inordinate amount of time reading and re-reading the first poem in Paul Celan’s Atemwende, Suhrkamp Verlag (Frankfurt am Main 1967) and, more particularly, reading and re-reading the first two lines- Du darfst mich getrost/ mit Schnee bewirten (You may confidently/entertain me with snow)-in order to find an entry or a hand hold to my reading. For me Celan’s use of the verb-bewirten-is a significant clue and key to the work. The word means to feed someone; however, it also means to entertain through providing a meal. In other words, the verb holds a concept that may be expressed thus: “you may take me to dinner and entertain me with food and drink.” Therefore, the verb conveys a sense that the “ich” is receiving nourishment and entertainment at the hands of the “du.” This entertainment follows a summer, where the “ich” walked with the “Maulbeerbaum” (the mulberry tree), and the youngest “leaf cries out.” In winter we find the “ich” celebrating or more precisely allowing himself to be “celebrated” by the “du” through snow. From this juxtaposition of season and the emergence of snow, Celan presents an end-summer followed by autumn, dying leaves, and the fall of snow-and the offer of the “ich” to be celebrated through a frigid rebirth after seasonal “death.” The image of snow is an allusion to the time of the camps where there was little or no actual nourishment, only ash and snow to fill the mouths of the starving prisoners. So, perhaps, he is saying that he will allow himself to be celebrated through snow, an icy nourishment but nourishment nevertheless.

In another poem, Eis, Eden, Celan employs a similar image-Das Eis wird auferstehen,/eh sich die Stunde schliesst (The ice will be resurrected/ before the hour concludes). What does this thread signify to me in my exploration of this Celan collection?

As a result of its images and allusions, I will look for themes of rebirth after metaphorical images of decay and death and the mechanism and means of that allowed or consented to resurrection. In other words, this strategy will furnish me a means in which to enter Celan’s poems, which are difficult at best and sometimes opaque.

Next time, I will discuss the meaning of the mulberry tree.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

"Preamble" by Keith Harvey


Spring shifts into his summer,
one year after their garden,
theirs because it was theirs to name and define.
Now, he sits on the edge of a cornfield
dressed in his crow feathers,
listening to the wind rustling among dried leaves,
mice seeking desiccated kernels among weeds.
She tell his first-born,
marked by a blood red scar
that he is an agrarian
and that the cornfield is his.
In her magical thinking,
she sacrifices corn to Him,
as an eternal return.
She holds the past in cupped hands
and her son drinks her memories
of green days naked.
But he has another plan,
a quest that seeks their future
in deeper depths.
For this he needs a song.
He chants and rocks,
transcending the sand.
She hears only the crow caw.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch"-Conclusion


At dusk, Vogel sat at the brasserie on the Isle St Louis, watching a bateau mouche loaded with tourists slowly pass the island, while he waited for Coyote.

He had been unable to find the pup, although he smelled his scent on the wind and he was sure that with the bruja gone Coyote would not have any trouble locating the boy. In fact, Vogel doubted seriously that Coyote would show up or pay the price for finding the pup.

As the sun set and a cold wind blew off of the Seine, Vogel ordered an armagnac and a cigar. At seven, when diners began to arrive, Vogel stood and started home. On a narrow street without any curb for pedestrians Vogel heard a scooter rumbling over the ancient cobblestones and he pressed himself against the side of an old building.

The scooter stopped at his elbow and he heard, “want a ride home, wolf?”

Vogel turned and smiled at Branwen who was dressed in a tight red dress that matched her helmet. A matching red sweater was tied around her shoulders.

“You look lovely.”

“Stop it old man and get on.”

She delivered him to the door of his apartment and as he climbed off, she said, “Coyote found his pup and they are on their way home.”

Vogel leaned forward and kissed her on each cheek. She turned the scooter around and said, “It is time you learned to fly.”

He laughed and said, “I thought I was a wolf.”

“Do you know what the ancients called the raven?”

He shook his head. She continued with a shake of her head that reminded him of the bird on the dresser in the hotel room, “The wolf bird, Vogel, the wolf bird.”

With that she drove off and the old man punched in his code and the door of his apartment building opened.

The End

Monday, November 06, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch"-Part Four


After lunch Vogel walked home. It took him almost an hour and half but since he was shot twelve years ago in Berlin, he always walked, unless it was bad weather or too far to go in a couple of hours. He intended to keep going no matter what was thrown at him-age, bullets, knives, witches, or coyotes.

At eleven that evening he was reading Thomas Mann’s Joseph and his Brothers. He had already fallen asleep once and he was nodding off in his chair, when the buzzer on the ground floor sounded. He walked over and buzzed the person in. After a few minutes there was a faint knock at his door. He opened it to Branwen.

She was wearing black leather pants, gloves, boots and an American motorcycle jacket. Her cheeks were flushed and her black eyes twinkled.

“You found her?”

“Get this, she is checked in at the Hilton across the street from the Tour d’Eiffel. My birds spotted her at ten tonight crossing the street. She has a powerful spell up but they were able to track her to the hotel after they discovered her emerging from the Bois du Bolougne in coyote skin.”

“Did they see the pup?”

“No, we haven’t been able to find him. I think she sensed us searching for her and changed into her human form to escape us.”

“She is not a coyote.”

“No, she is a shape shifter but she’s human. Sort of human.”

“What should we do?”

“Get a good night’s sleep and be at her hotel at eight tomorrow morning. Somehow get in her room and open a window. I will take care of everything else.”

“How do I know which room to go to?”

“She’s checked in as Mrs. Rose Red. Cute isn’t it?”

She kissed him on each cheek and he smelled her scent, which seemed to be a combination of chocolate and musk.

As he was closing the door, she turned and said, “I almost forgot. When you get the window open, blow this.” She handed him a silver whistle. It was about two inches long and a quarter of inch around. He took and blew into it softly. He heard nothing but she covered her ears and said crossly, “are you crazy? You will have every crow in Paris sitting on your ledge if you blow that thing.”

She smiled and then walked toward the elevator, pulling her red helmet onto her head.

Vogel slept fitfully and rose early. He took the first metro across town and was sitting in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel at seven forty. He did not know how he was going to find the woman in the huge hotel. He had walked up and down the lobby sniffing deeply, trying to pick up her scent, but he discerned nothing but the usual hotel odors, some of which were quite unpleasant.

He went to the flower shop next to the Hermes Boutique in the lobby and ordered a dozen roses for Madame Rose Red. The shop girl looked at him as if he was mad but he assured her that was the woman’s name. He paid in cash and then returned to the lobby.

At eight fifteen, a young man wearing green pants with a yellow strip on the legs and a tan jacket emerged from the flower shop carrying a vase with a dozen red roses and walked to the elevator. Vogel jumped up as best he could with his leg and followed the man onto the elevator. He pushed four and Vogel said in English, “same as me.” The boy smiled.

Vogel followed the boy down the long hall, walking slowly, exaggerating his handicap. The boy stopped at room 426 and Vogel continued past him and turned at the end of the hall into another bank of rooms. He waited until he heard the boy leave and then returned to Room 426 and knocked.

The witch pulled the door open, her face contorted with rage at being disturbed again. Vogel knew immediately that she suspected a trap and he noted that she was dressed to go out.

“Who are you?” She leaned toward him and sniffed. With her so close, Vogel detected a hint of pollen, mesquite, baby powder, and desert flowers on her cheek. Against his will, he felt himself becoming tremendously attracted to the woman and he wondered if this was part of her magic.

She had disguised herself as a forty something French woman, with short black hair, tanned skin and hazel eyes. She was dressed in a gray skirt and a white silk blouse. A tailored matching gray jacket hung on the chair in front of the dresser and a Birkin bag rested on the chair.

She stepped back and examined him closely, so closely that Vogel felt an urge to turn away from her gaze.

“I see a man, a human man, but I detect both the scent of a wolf and a bird, a rook, I think. You must have ancient blood. You don’t know who or what you are do you? Oh, I can see a little training around the edges and I suspect that you are good at finding things and maybe solving problems but you have a violent side that takes over sometimes and when it does there is blood everywhere. I understand that side. I don’t hide from it but you do. I can see it.”

Vogel said nothing because he did not want to give away anything to the woman. Her power came from her knowledge and the more information she had the greater control she could exercise over him.

“Are you a shape shifter or a shaman?”

He did not answer.

“What’s your name?” She crossed over to the dresser and pulled on her jacket. When he did not answer, she shrugged and said, “You are not unattractive but I have business to attend to and I cannot waste time on you.”

“I am here for Coyote.”

She paused and then sat down, “I thought I smelled him in Madrid. He got close, real close.”

She laughed and pulled a pack of Marlboro Lights from her purse. “He thought he bested me but he was wrong. He is such a funny character, everything that he attempts backfires on him.”

“I want the pup.”

“You can have him if you bring Coyote to me.”

“Now. Do you want to see him now?”

“No, not now and not here,” she said, as she sucked hard on the cigarette and expelled a blue cloud of smoke.

“Mind if I open a window, the smoke bothers me?”

“Overly fastidious for a wolf,” she said with a smirk. “Sure open the window.”

He opened the French windows and pulled open the curtains. Below, across the street, in a soccer field, several grown men were playing. Beyond it the Eiffel Tower stood blocking his view of the city and the river beyond; it was so close in fact that he could see people climbing the stairs and hear them laughing and talking. He also heard music and the voice of barkers selling mementos to the tourists, waiting for their turn to climb the stairs for a view of the city.
With his back turned to her he pulled the whistle from the pocket of his coat lifted it quickly to his lips and blew. There was no sound except the witch pulling on her cigarette. He placed the whistle into his pocket as he returned to his chair.

“Where shall we meet for the exchange?”

“He can pick up his pup in the desert where we met in three weeks.”


She waved her hand as if to say, take it or leave it.”

“But the pup is here in Paris now.”

“So, I have some things to do here, which involve the pup. I am not ready to relinquish him yet. I must thoroughly house train him. He is a bit wild and completely innocent.” She ran her tongue around her lips, as if checking her lipstick. “Well, you should be off because I have things to do.”

Vogel looked out the windows, wondering where Branwen was. Had she heard the call? The once clear blue sky now turned a dark purple, as burgeoning rain clouds rushed with a mighty wind from the north. Suddenly, a lightening bolt split the air and a few seconds later, they heard the thunder. The witch hurried to the window. She looked toward the North, as the room’s temperature began to plummet. The north wind tore at the woman’s hair and Vogel smelled rain. The woman turned to him and walked toward him, her face contorted with anger. “What did you do, Wolf? Who is coming in that?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” said Vogel, backing toward the door.

She raised her right hand as if to hit him and began to chant in Spanish. Vogel was caught now. He could not move or speak. Something over her shoulder caught his eye, a glint of steel and blue flash.

Branwen stood nude on the ledge as the rain lashed down on the building. Her hair was braided in hundreds of strands containing bits of colored glass and rocks and feathers and she had painted her face and body dark blue and green. She stepped into the room and the witch saw her reflected in Vogel’s eyes and she turned immediately to cast her spell against Branwen but Branwen had lifted her sword with two hands over her right shoulder and as soon as the witch turned she brought the sword down with an amazing strength and severed the witch’s head from her body in one stroke.

Blood gushed up and about the room. Vogel fell back against the wall, splattered with the witch’s blood.

Branwen smiled a crooked smile and walked to the bed and cleaned the blood from her blade.
The witch’s head rolled beneath the dresser and stopped with a thud and Vogel turned and saw her wild and angry eyes, which blinked twice and before the witch spoke.

“You bitch. You think you can end this with a sword. You stupid cow, I shall release all the fury of my sisters on you and on you, you pitiful stupid wolf.”

Branwen stood above the head and said, “Talk on witch, I have heard your threats before, maybe even your threats.”

As Vogel watched the two, a shimmer appeared in the room, like a heat wave lifting off the desert’s floor, and then Branwen began to change; black shiny feathers sprouted from her body and shone and glistened in the light of the lamps and where the young girl stood naked now appeared a large raven with purple black feathers, black beak and eyes.

The raven hopped under the dresser and snapped the witch’s hair up in her beak and dragged it, as it cursed her and Vogel in both Spanish and French, across the floor to the edge of the bed.
The sky cleared and all remnants of the storm disappeared. The raven, quorked, cawed, snapped and hopped onto the bed, where it dropped the head and then flew toward Vogel, who fell back against the door.

After a few turns around the room, the raven landed on the dresser and moved its head back and forth, one black eye watching Vogel, before it hopped onto the bed next to the head and fastened its beak once again onto the witch’s hair. With two strong flaps of its massive wings, the raven flew through window.

It was some time before Vogel dragged himself into the bathroom where he vomited into the toilet. He stared into the mirror afterwards and noted he was splattered with blood. He cleaned himself off as best he could and then took two wash cloths and cleaned every surface in the room that he had touched. He also wiped up the bloody tracks he had made when he had walked through blood.

Before leaving, he thought about every step he had taken before he entered the witch’s room. He was most worried about the flower girl, who could describe a senior American, who walked with the aid of a cane and who ordered flowers for the decapitated woman in Room 426.
He was finally ready to leave when he detected a faint scent on the wind, a scent he had smelled before in the desert, a feral smell like a large cat’s lair. He walked to the window and guessed it was coming from the southeast. He also picked up another similar scent emanating from the northwest and guessed the witch’s spell was broken because he could now pick out from the multitude of odors he was now receiving the distinctive odor of both the Coyote and his pup.

Before leaving the window, he noted hundred of birds wheeling about the spire on top of the Eiffel Tower and he thought he discerned Branwen carrying the witch’s head in the middle of the murder of crows.

Friday, November 03, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch" -Part Three


Vogel crossed the bridge, passed the cathedral, pausing for a few minutes on the island, to watch two bus loads of German tourists disembark and line up for a tour. A young French nun, speaking German, began a history lesson on the cathedral and he tarried under the trees to listen to her. When she finished, he continued his march to the left bank, where he walked a hundred yards along the Seine, before he turned into the Place Triangle.

Once in the Place he sniffed the air and smelled hundreds of nests in the old trees of the park and noted that the birds-the ravens, rooks, and crows-were away, flying about the city, scavenging for food.

He walked slowly down the park’s gravel paths, hoping for Branwen to appear.

Vogel didn’t know what she was exactly but he imagined her as the spirit of the Place, the mistress of the birds. All he really knew was that she inhabited the park, in some form, and the birds belonged to her. Sometimes he believed she was a bird herself.

He remembered an old Netsilik Eskimo origin story that said that in the beginning the world was dark and at that time men and animals existed in the darkness and they spoke to one another and mated with one another, not knowing if their mate was animal or human. Animals could shift their shape to human and humans could become animals. Animals and men were one and both spoke freely to the gods. When the light appeared they separated according to their kind but by then some humans were part animal and some animals were part human. Over time many forgot their origins and fell into a great forgetting.

Vogel suspected that Branwen and her twin brother, Brandon, were ancient animal people. He also believed that Branwen was very old, as old as the earth itself, although she liked to speed around Paris on a red Italian motor scooter and appeared to be a twenty year old Parisian.

If he were to catch the bruja, he would need her help. The problem with her was that she appeared when she wanted and where she wanted. There was never anyway to contact her, no trick, no address, no prayer, and no call. More often than not she was traveling with her twin, Brandon, following the memory lines of the earth, looking for sacred places that the Christians, Jews, or the Moslems had not covered with a church, synagogue, or mosque.

Vogel walked the whole length of the Park but he could not pick up any scent of her. He turned toward the buildings on the south side of the Place Triangle and crossed the street, walking slowly, tapping his cane on the concrete.

Felix Beinix was serving a coffee to a customer sitting at a table in front of the café. When he saw Vogel, he waved and walked toward him with his free hand outstretched.

“My old friend,” he said, “have you come for lunch.”

“Of course, why do you think I would walk from the Marais.”

“You should rent a place here. I have a nice apartment on the fourth floor, facing the east.”

“If I lived here I would have to have a view of the Park.”

He shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sorry, there is nothing available now.”

“Then I will have to stay in the Marais.”

“Do you want to eat outside today?”

“That sounds right, yes, outside.”

Marc de la Croix, a history professor at the Sorbonne, sitting inside next to the window, waved at Vogel and Vogel smiled and waved back. De la Croix rose from his chair and came outside to shake Vogel’s hand.

“My friend, I just read your book on Georg Löwe. It is a masterpiece.”

“That’s high praise coming from you.”

Beinix pulled out a chair for Vogel. As Vogel sat down, de la Croix stood over him talking. “I am just at the point where the Russian shaman takes him into the woods. Is it true, this story?”

“From everything that I have been able to determine, it is true.”

“Your notes indicate that you went to Siberia and met both the shaman and his son.”

“I spent four months in the village where Löwe was imprisoned and I talked with the people there. I then traveled north into the forest where I met the shaman and his son.”

“Strange. It is a very strange story.”

“Strange but true. The shaman recounted the story to me exactly as Löwe wrote it in The Siberian Idyll.”

Vogel suspected that de la Croix wanted an invitation to lunch but Vogel did not want to talk shop with the professor of history; instead, he wanted to think and to ask Felix if he knew where either Branwen or Brandon was at the moment.

“Do you think the shaman read The Siberian Idyll?”

“The man did not speak Russian or German so his son interpreted for me. It is highly unlikely that he has read The Siberian Idyll or any other book for that matter.”

“Maybe someone told him the story.”

“It’s possible but I prefer to believe Löwe and the shaman.”

Vogel wanted de la Croix to go away but he didn’t seem to get the message. Felix returned with the menu and de la Croix simply moved out of the way for a moment and continued to ask questions as Vogel looked at the menu and then ordered the rabbit.

In the distance, Vogel heard the sound of a scooter and he noticed a red one turning the corner and heading for the café. It was Branwen and she stopped at the curb near Vogel’s table. She wore a red helmet, a black linen shirt, and black woolen pants. A black cashmere sweater was tied around her shoulders. She pulled the scooter up on its stand and then pulled off her helmet.

She smiled and waved at Felix and shook de la Croix’s hand, as she moved toward Vogel. He was rising to greet her when she placed her right hand on his shoulder and pushed him back into his seat. She then kissed him three times on the cheek and took the seat opposite him.

“I am sorry to be late but I had pressing business on the other side of town.”

Felix presented her a menu, which she looked at cursorily and ordered the rabbit and a glass of the Lalande de Pomerol. De la Croix stood awkwardly behind her.

She turned and said, “Marc, you are still here. If you don’t mind I have some business to discuss with Dutch.”

He bowed to her and then returned to his table inside the restaurant.

“He is in love with me,” she said, turning to Vogel.

“What can you do?”

“Exactly,” and then she laughed.

She switched to English and her thick Irish accent always surprised him.

“I heard your call. How can I be of service?”

Vogel told her about Coyote and Snake and the lost pup. She listened carefully and said, “After lunch return to your apartment. I will contact you there if I find anything. It seems that she has placed a spell on both the pup and herself to prevent Coyote from tracking her.”

“Why would she come to Paris?” he asked later, as they ate.

“I agree with Coyote. I think she is one of our witches. She could be really old-one of ours that migrated to the New World with the Spanish or the French.”

“Why steal the pup?”

“Because she can and because she has a score to settle with the old man. I don’t care who you are, you don’t let a man use you the way he did with impunity.”

“Use her?”

She smiled and said, “I know that she started it but she intended to end it as well. He pulled a fast one on her, had his way, and then hit the road. She is paying him back. It’s sexual politics bruja style.”

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Coyote and Witch-Part Two


He sat at a table in the front of a brasserie on the Isle St. Louis. For a fall day, the sun shone brightly and he wore a pair of dark sunglasses to protect his green eyes. The waiter delivered a second espresso but he did not touch it; instead, he watched a young couple kissing on the bridge, with Notre Dame Cathedral in the background. A hundred pigeons circled above the small square in front of the brasserie, circled once, twice, and then finally landed near his table.

Besides the sun glasses, he wore a gray linen shirt, black wool pants, a grey tweed jacket with three buttons, a fisher man’s wool cap, which was odd for such mild weather, and black leather boots that shone and glistened in the sun. The boots gave him away because anyone looking at the shoes would know immediately that he had been a soldier and that the shine on the boots came from a spit shine.

He used a cane to walk, which was leaning against his chair. The cane was hand carved and its handle was fashioned into the shape of a wolf’s head, identical to the silver pendant that hung around his neck on a silver chain. A second smaller chain held a Celtic cross that hung above and over the wolf pendant.

He was fifty-nine years old, six feet tall, an American, who had lived in Europe for almost twenty years and thought of his apartment in the Marais as home.

It was Saturday and Dutch Vogel believed he had the day to himself. He had made no plans for the weekend, other than a trip to a bookstore on the Boulevard St. Germain. He had set off from his apartment near the Musée Picasso earlier in the morning, walked through the Place des Vosges, crossed the Seine on the Pointe de Sully, stopped at an atelier of a friend and then paused at the brasserie and ordered an espresso.

He planned to lunch later at the Café Corbeau at the Place Triangle and to visit his friend Felix Beinix. From his table, he could see the buildings on the south side of the Seine that formed one side of the triangular shape of the Place. He even imagined he could see the crows that made the park at the Place Triangle their roost, flying above the ancient roofs of the buildings. He mentally compared the crows, ravens and rooks of Place Triangle to the pigeons here on the Quai D’Orleans and judged the pigeons outclassed.

The waiter asked if he wanted anything else and he shook his head no. He paid the bill and then quickly drank the espresso. He stood and reached for his cane but sat back down when he saw her. He rubbed his eyes to make sure she was real. She walked toward him slowly just as she had walked twelve years ago on a snowy night in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He didn’t know her name; he simply called her Snake. He quickly looked around to see if the old man was here as well because they always traveled together. They were a couple or a pair, always together, never alone, never one without the other.

Suddenly he felt a sense of vertigo and the sun, so bright before, seemed to dim. He removed his sunglasses because it was too dark now with them on. He felt as old and weak as she seemed young and dangerous and seductive. There was always that with her, always an invitation or a leer, always a possibility that something might happen.

Vogel scanned the sidewalk and the bridge. Where was he, he thought, the old scoundrel, and then he saw him walking across the bridge, taking his time.

He wore jeans and a cotton shirt, deerskin moccasins, even in Paris, and a black felt hat. His long braided hair hung to his waist and he carried a leather jacket over his shoulder. He looked ridiculous in Paris but there he was fresh from the desert of New Mexico.

Vogel turned to Snake. Her long black hair was unbraided and she wore a blue jean jacket over a denim shirt, jeans and deer skin moccasins, like the old man. She was short, like most Apaches, and Vogel focused on her black eyes that seemed to laugh at him whenever she looked at him.

“Snake,” he said nodding at her.

“Vogel,” she smiled and Vogel concluded her smiles were really smirks.

She smelled like mesquite smoke and tequila and jicama. It was not unpleasant and there was something sexy about it.

He, the old man, on the other hand, smelled like tobacco and sweat and sandalwood with something else hidden underneath, something feral, wild and rotten. Vogel knew he could pick them out in a darkened room with a thousand people pressed together just by their smell.
When Coyote arrived he said just exactly what Vogel knew he would, “Buy me a drink?”

Vogel moved his left hand to indicate that they should sit.

The waiter appeared and took their drink orders. Coyote ordered a double tequila and Snake asked for a hot chocolate with whip cream. Vogel took a cognac.

“What brings you to Paris?” asked Vogel.

“What? No how are you?”

“Sorry. How are you?”

“Not good, not good.”

“What’s wrong?”

“This place is wrong. It is not our home. I can’t sniff my way around. I don’t know the smells. I don’t know the people. I can’t sleep in this city.”

“It’s different.”

The waiter put their drinks down and Coyote swallowed his in one mighty gulp, wiped his mouth with his sleeve and ordered another.

He pulled a corncob pipe from the pocket of his jacket, which he had hung over his chair, and then asked, “You have any tobacco.”

“No. Wait.” Vogel signaled the waiter and asked if they had any pipe tobacco.

“Oui, monsieur.”

The man hurried inside.

While they waited, Coyote said, “she‘s a beauty, isn’t she?”

“Yes. You are a lucky man.”

“She’s not mine. She just travels with me.”

Vogel sipped his cognac and leaned back in his chair. He knew Coyote was simply trying to establish his dominance. He would wait and hope that Vogel would ask him to go on. Vogel, however, was a patient man and he knew Coyote’s tricks.

The waiter returned with the tobacco and the drinks and Coyote swallowed the tequila and ordered another one. As he filled his pipe, he watched Vogel, lit the match and touched it to the tobacco and took a couple of puffs. He whispered a short prayer to the gods and then he said, “I have lost a pup.”

Vogel straightened up in his chair and leaned forward and said, “Pretty hard to lose a pup. What happened?”

Coyote leaned back in his chair and looked over at Snake, who shook her head, as if to give Coyote permission to tell the story.

“He’s here in Paris but we lost them in Madrid. We know he’s here because we received word from some acquaintances.”

Vogel looked at him and thought that it would be very odd for Coyote to have any acquaintances in Europe so he asked, “Which acquaintance would that be?”

Coyote smiled and reached into the pocket of his pants and pulled out a piece of newspaper print, carefully folded into a square, and handed it to Vogel.

Vogel unfolded the paper and placed it on the table in front of him. It was an article in Spanish from a newspaper in Madrid. He read it out loud in Spanish, translating it into English as he went.

On Saturday night residents of the sixteenth arrondissement awoke to the sounds of coyotes emanating from the woods of the Bois de Boulogne. Jean-Pierre Testia, a taxi driver, told police that he saw a pair of coyotes cross the Avenue du Général Serrail on Saturday night around two a.m. and enter the Bois.

Vogel looked up from the article and said, “I see what you mean? But this says that there were two of them.”

“One pup and one mad bruja,” said Snake.

“When we read the article, we took the train here but we could not pick up their trail.”

“Why not? You found me easily enough.”

“She is blocking us.”


“The bruja, the one that stole the pup.”

“Maybe you should start at the beginning.”

Coyote took a puff on his pipe and blew blue smoke straight up into the air, leaned back in his chair, and closed his eyes for a few moments. Vogel looked over at Snake, who rolled her eyes and then smiled.

“It started about six months ago. I was on my way south to Mexico. I was alone because Snake had shacked up with this cowboy Apache up in the four corners.”

Snake shrugged her shoulders as if to say, what are you going to do when you find someone attractive?

“I was walking, taking my time, talking to the creatures I found along the way. A day’s march south of Las Cruces, I stumbled onto a fox who warned me that a bruja had an adobe house a few miles further south. He told me she was beautiful but very tricky and several of our brothers had gone that way but never returned.

“I continued on my way but I was intrigued by fox’s description of this bruja and I became more and more curious as I traveled south. Eventually, I turned toward her house. As I moved, I continually sniffed the air because I did not want to be taken unawares.

“The strange thing was that I could not pick up a scent. It was as if someone had purified the air, drained it of every possible odor, except the wild flowers, the mesquite and the cacti.

“That night I stopped on a small rise above a dry creek bed. The moon was full and I let out a few yelps just to let the neighbors know I was around.

“I heard nothing, which is strange because usually in that part of the world there are a lot of my brothers and sisters about, especially on a summer night with a full moon. But that night there was nothing, no response to my call. I built a small fire and smoked my pipe. A carpenter in Santa Fe had given me a pouch of sweet tobacco and I was near the bottom so I was enjoying it, savoring the smoke and praying to the gods.

“I must have fallen asleep because at dawn a horned toad was standing in the red sand at my feet, watching me.

“’What is it, little brother?’ I asked. ‘You are close to her, Coyote, turn back now or you will end up in one of her cages.’”

“I laughed and told him not to worry.”

“I had no food or drink and I was hungry and as soon as the toad ran off into the mesquite I headed southwest toward the bruja’s place. As I walked, I thought that I smelled chili and beans and frying tortillas. My mouth began to water and so I hurried on toward the bruja.

“Toward noon, a hawk landed on the arm of a cactus near the trail and waited for me to reach her. ‘Turn back now, Coyote, or it will be too late.’

“I ask, ‘Did she send you to frighten me?’

“’No one sent me. I came to warn you. She is no one’s friend.’”

“And yet I continued southwest to her house because now I smelled roasted lamb and green chilies.

“At dusk I climbed a small hill and from the top I could see her place. There was an adobe house, a shed made of mesquite, a corral that held two donkeys and a mule, and hundred or so cages of various sizes scattered around the property. Each had one or two animals in them and yet I could not smell a thing except for roasting lamb, green chilies, and a hint of pollen. My senses should have been exploding with smells with all those little brothers in those cages but I could smell nothing except food cooking. I should have taken this as a sign of her power and run in the opposite direction but I am curious and vain. I could not imagine anyone out witting me.

“Never,” said Snake.

Coyote cleared his throat and continued.

“As soon as the sun set, I walked toward the house. She was outside of the adobe, disguised as a Navajo woman, sitting on her haunches, in front a large fire made of mesquite and dried cactus spines. It was aromatic and I wondered if that fire was part of her magic.

“I knew she saw me but rather than acknowledge my presence, she turned her back to me and squatted on a Navajo blanket, where she had spread some stone bowls. She was grinding corn for tortillas and singing a song under her breath. It was song about the wind and how one day the wind fell in love with a red deer. It was a new song for me and I found myself listening rather than paying attention to the old woman because that was what she was, an old woman. She wore a long dark red pleated skirt and a white peasant’s blouse. She had long hair that was sprinkled with gray and white and she was fat and burned dark brown by the sun. Her eyes were black and her pupils were large like black plates of coal. Around her fat neck hung several milagros- a rabbit’s foot, an owl feather, a rattlesnake’s rattlers, a wooden cross and a silver one, a leather pouch filled with bear teeth. She had it all. I sensed she was powerful and old.

“When I was just a few feet front from, she said in a deep voice, ‘I smelled you ten miles away Coyote.’

“’That’s funny because I cannot smell you at all, old woman.’

“’It’s the magic, old man,’ she said. ‘I’m hiding from the spirits.’

“’Which spirit is chasing you?’ I ask, knowing she will not give me a straight answer.

“’What do want with me, old man?’

“’Nothing. I am just curious.’

“’You know what happened to the cat?’


“She laughed and said, ‘no, you don’t.’ She pointed at one of the wooden cages that contained about ten cats, lying and sitting on its wooden floor.

“She invited me to sit on the rug with her but I shook my head and walked to the other side of the fire and sat on my haunches. When she returned to her work, grinding the corn, I noted that the other stone bowls contained ingredients for chili and beans and tortillas and as I thought of the food, my mouth began to water.

“’You hungry?’

“’No, I am fine. I have some jerky and tobacco.’

“”Suit yourself.’

“I pulled my pipe out and filled it with the last of my tobacco, lit it with a twig from the fire, and watched the old woman. Soon she gets up and drags a black cast iron pot over and hangs it over the fire with two pieces of metal. She then pours the ingredients from those bowls into the pot and begins to cook the beans and chilies. The smell is driving me crazy and my stomach is rumbling.

“As she cooks, I notice that she is growing younger and slimmer. I rub my eyes to make sure I am not dreaming or imagining what is happening. Soon, however, I know something is happening because the peasant blouse falls off her left shoulder exposing a small round breast, with a large brown aureole and a firm nipple. She casually pulls the blouse back up on her shoulder but I know that she performing for me; she is stirring all my hunger with her magic just like she is stirring those beans and chilies in that big black pot.

“She cooks the beans and then she takes a large frying pan and places it over the fire, holding the cast iron handle with a rag, and begins to cook the tortillas.

“’Sure you don’t want one?’”

“I look at her and she is now no more than twenty. Her long black hair glistens in the light of the fire and the fire warms her brown skin. I see little beads of sweat on her upper lip and I note its fullness. I now guess how she captured all these animals.

“’If you aren’t going to tell me about yourself, then tell me a story while I eat.’

“’I will tell you a story for a tortilla.’

“She looks up from her cooking and I know she is thinking. She is thinking that I am smarter than the others and that I might not be so easy to catch.

“’I’ll trade you one tortilla, one bowl of chili and beans, and a glass of mescal, if you will prepare me a bath.’

“’Where will I find enough water for a bath?’ I asked.

“She pointed off to the south. ‘There’s a spring there, about three hundred yards from the house. I have a couple of buckets in the shed. I think eight buckets should be enough. I’ll boil the water while you eat.

“I stood up and moved toward the shed, when she said, ‘one other thing. I want you to satisfy me tonight.’

“’I will want three tortillas, two bowls of beans, some lamb, and two mescal. And one other thing we don’t stop until I can’t perform anymore.’”


“I trudged back and forth nearly all night but she finally got enough for a bath. She had this ancient tin bath tub that I dragged from the shed. When the water was hot she stripped down to her bare skin and stepped into the tub. I watched her bathe while I ate the beans, lamb, chili, and tortillas and drank the mescal.

“There is something I must confess. I was so hot for her by the time she finished splashing around in the water that I could have mounted her like an old mangy dog in heat as soon as she rose from that hot bath. Her skin glowed from the heat of the water and her hair was wet as she walked across the red dust of the desert to the door of the adobe house. She stood in the frame of the door, her legs spread apart with water dripping from the hair between her legs. I felt a howl emerging from my chest and I was ready to go.

“She said, ‘you coming or not?’

“I finished my food by wiping all of the chili from the bottom of my bowl with my last tortilla and then ran to the house.

“We rolled around her bed for hours, tearing at each other like savage animals until, finally, near dawn we fell asleep. Sometime in the afternoon, I awoke with my arms and legs around her and I realized that she was awake, waiting for me to stir.

“’Maybe we made a baby,’ she whispered.

“’It’s possible. I have dropped pups off all over this country.’

“”Like where?’ she asked sweetly.

“’The youngest one is up in Taos working at a dude ranch.’

“’What’s his name?’

“’Thomas.’ Then I know I have done it. She tricked me and I have given up my youngest pup but I don’t say anything. I don’t want her to know that I know that I have made a mistake. Instead, I roll her onto her back and have at her for another hour or so. By dusk I am back on the trail, heading south to Mexico. Now, I have to move fast, conduct my business and get back to Taos and warn Thomas.”

Vogel shifts in his chair and says, “She somehow got her hands on Thomas and brought him to France?”

“She went to the dude ranch in Taos and masqueraded as a rich woman from Madrid. While there she seduced Thomas and persuaded him to come with her to Spain.”

“We think she came to the New World with the Spaniards,” added Snake.

“She’s not a home grown witch?”

“Exactly. That explains her power. She is very old and very tricky.”

“Why would she waste her time on Thomas?”

“To get back at me. I didn’t fall under her spell and I rode her hard for almost a day and then walked off into the desert. I wounded her pride and escaped.”

“I don’t get it.”

Snake said, “You don’t have to get it. She is a witch. She likes power and domination. Coyote got under her skin. In her mind this is a mating dance. She wants him to steal Thomas back so she can do something else. She tasted him and she is now attached to him.”

“What do you want from me?”

“Find Thomas.”

Vogel looked over at Notre Dame and saw hundreds of pigeons enter the air and fly in a great circle around the spires.

He rubbed his chin with his left hand and squeezed the cane’s handle with his right.


“Deux cigars, s’il vous plaît.”

“Three,” said Snake.

As they were puffing away on the cigars, Vogel asked, “If I find the boy and take care of the witch, what do I get?”

“What do you want?”



“Good luck for the rest of my life.”

“That will cost me in the spirit world.”

“That’s not my problem.”

Coyote looked at Snake and she nodded yes.

“Meet me here tomorrow at dusk.”

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

"Coyote and the Witch" by Keith Harvey

I plan to post a long short story from my urban fantasy collection, entitled The Darker Age, in several parts over the next few days.


“The boy entered the bar at midnight alone.”

“How did he seem?”

“What do you mean?”

“Was he drunk or angry, happy or sad?”

The bartender sucked on his cigarette and blew a blue cloud of smoke into the air. His eyes were half shut and he looked gray from not enough sleep and too many cigarettes.

“He looked fresh.”

“What do you mean?”

“He had a tan and his long black hair glistened. He was healthy, you know, like he lived outdoors. He didn’t look like the average kid that comes into this place. He was sober. His eyes were clear and lucid. He knew what was going on. He was not like most of them, either drunk or stoned or wasted from one thing or another.”

“Who started the fight?”

“The French kid. He came on to the Spaniard. He kept rubbing his hands around on him and the Spaniard told him that he wasn’t interested and for him to leave him alone and then some of the others, regulars here, started in on the Spaniard.

“I was getting nervous at this point because these boys, the ones who come here every night, are dangerous. They carry knives and guns and they hurt one another. They may be fags but they can hurt you. Don’t ever underestimate their anger or their hostility.”

“Who threw the first punch?”

“Remy. He hit the new kid in the stomach and the kid looked shocked at being hit, like he had never been hit before.”

“Then what happened?”

“One of Remy’s mates kicked the Spaniard in the face as he bent forward from the blow to the stomach. The kick threw him back onto the bar and his face was covered with blood.”

“Did anyone else hit him at this point?”

“No, that’s when she showed up.”

“What did she look like?”

“She was in her thirties, slim and dark.”

“A black?”

“No, she had this great tan and she was wearing a black vest, with no bra, and tight black leather pants and boots, cowboy boots like they wear in Texas. You know, what I am saying?”

“Yes. So she walks in and Spaniard is leaning against the bar and she stands between him and these young boys?”

“Exactly. They tell her if she doesn’t move away from the boy, they will hurt her sexually.”

“What kind of sexual violence did they threaten?”

“Not rape, just things they are going to do her private parts. These kids are crude, man, really crude.”

“How does she respond to their threats?”

“She laughs at them and calls them little bastards.”

“What do they do then?”

“They go nuts and they start toward her and that is when the blood really starts to flow. She has a straight razor in her hand and she begins to start hacking and she doesn’t finish until half the bar is on the floor.”

“Where were you during this melee?”

“I am hiding behind the bar for most of it with my ears covered because I can’t take the screaming. And I am scared, really scared.”

“What happens when she stops?”

“She calls out to me and tells me to pour her a shot of tequila and then asks for a bar rag.”
“Do you do what she says?”

“Are you kidding me? Of course I do what she tells me.”

“Where is the kid?”

“He was standing next to her looking terrified.”

“Then what happens?”

“She drinks the shot, cleans the blood off her arm and hands and then she tells the kid to follow her and he does. At that point I call you but I already hear the sirens and I know that someone has called.”

“Leave your name and number with that female officer near the door.”

“Can I ask you how many she killed?”

The policeman rubbed his right eye and then said, "two dead and eight wounded. So far.”

Friday, October 27, 2006

"Revenants" by Keith Harvey


These days, thirty years after their passing,
one or the other taps on my door
or scratches the screen with nails bitten to the quick.
The younger one, who cut her wrists,
sometimes appears with a hand full of beignets
then drops her jeans and t-shirt in the foyer
before slipping under damp sheets with a giggle.
The older, married one, who overdosed on sleeping pills,
sneaks up the alley and stares
through the screens until I feel her wild crazy eyes
blink behind the bottled lens of her spectacles.
She places them on the table near the door
before striding blindly with the confidence of frozen age
through the house turning off lights as she sheds her sun dress.
I cannot reject them now, nor could I then.
In their madness they were alive
with an electrical pulse that ran hot
beneath their soft skin
and I could not, nor can I now,
resist the sensual shock
of lightning over dark water at midnight.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

"REAL, Regarding Arts and Letters"

I want to thank Dr. Christine Butterworth-McDermott, Editor-in-Chief of REAL, Stephen F. Austin State University's literary magazine, for accepting two of my poems-"Schadenfreude" and "School Days" for publication. When I was in my early twenties I spent five wonderful years in Nacogdoches reading great literature in the University's library. Consequently, it's a thrill to be published by them.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"Preamble" by Keith Harvey


Spring shifts into his summer,
one year after He expelled them from their garden,
theirs because it was theirs to name and define.
Now, he sits on the edge of the cornfield
dressed in his crow feathers,
listening to the wind rustling among the dried leaves,
mice seeking desiccated kernels among the weeds.
She tells his first-born, marked by a scar
that pulses blood red in the sun that he is an agrarian
and that the cornfield is his and in her magic thinking,
she thinks to sacrifice the corn to Him, as a way back.
She holds the past in her cupped hands and the son drinks from it,
all of her memories of her green days naked in the garden.
He, however, has another plan, a quest that seeks the future
and a voyage to unknown locales and deeper depths.
For this trip he needs a song and a mode of discourse.
So he begins to chant and rock back and forth,
hoping to transcend the sand of the cornfield and the past.
She hearing him hears only the caw of the crow and she frowns
and drowns out his moaning call with her song of the glories of the past.

Monday, October 23, 2006

"A Murder of Crows" by Keith Harvey

Since 52 B.C., the inhabitants of France
and Western Europe have forgotten who they once were.
Jean Markale


“Café Corbeau.”

“This is Karl Wisent.”

“Karl, where have you been? I thought you had deserted us for ever.”

“Never, Felix.”

“I got married and. . . .”


“Yes, I know that I said that after the first, after Heike, I would never marry again, but I did.”

“A French girl?”

“No, another German. She is an artist.”

“She lives in Paris?”

“Another Berlin girl, actually a friend or a client of my ex-wife. So I have been traveling between Berlin and Paris but she has moved here and we found an atelier near the Place des Vosges.”


“Listen, a friend of mine has just published a new book, his second actually, and it is getting very good reviews. I wanted to give him a little dinner party tomorrow night. Do you think that you could accommodate us? There will be five people.”

“What time, mon copain?”


“Of course. Would you like something special?”

“No, your menu is perfect.”
“What is your friend’s name?”

“Vogel, Paul Vogel.”

“Bien sûr, I saw him on Livre last night.”

“That’s him.”

“Tomorrow night at eight, five people. I look forward to seeing you Karl.”

“And you Felix.”


A November wind blew dead leaves in a circle, a miniature whirlwind on the sidewalk in front of the Café Corbeau. Felix Beinix, perched upon a steel and leather stool behind his copper bar, worked on his bills. It was three thirty in the afternoon, the slowest part of the day. The kitchen shut down at two thirty and Guillermo, the day chef left at three.

Marie-France placed linen cloths on the tables, preparing the dining room for the evening dinner crowd and Mathieu Poublan, a seventy five year old retired school teacher, sat at the end of the bar reading his newspaper and smoking a Gauloise.

Mathieu had been a friend of Felix’s father and he appeared at the café everyday at ten and spent most of the day there, nursing one or two drinks.

Felix looked up from his bills and observed the park across the street. The falling leaves revealed naked limbs and hundreds of nests.

Seven months before a congress of crows, ravens and rooks had taken up residency at the Place Triangle. Since that time the city had tried several things to rid the Place of the birds but nothing had worked, including the introduction of four hawks into the neighborhood.

The crows reminded him of Branwen.

Seven months ago Felix met Branwen, who came to his café twice in one day, but never appeared again, although she said that she now lived in the neighborhood.

Since meeting her, Felix dreamed of her several times. In the dreams she always appeared as a Celtic warrior, running through an open field, accompanied by wolves and crows and brandishing a great sword.

Marc de la Croix rushed down the sidewalk, the wind tearing at his white trench coat and his long, curly blond hair. He carried a stack of blue examination books under his right arm and a battered brown briefcase in his left hand. He pushed the door open with his foot and uttered an expletive.

“Espresso immediately,” he said throwing his examination books on a table near the window.

Felix stood and started the Italian espresso machine.

“I talked with an old friend of yours today.”

“Who?” asked the Professor as he pulled off his trench coat.

“Karl Wisent.”

“Where has he been?” de la Croix asked, walking toward the bar.

“He remarried. A German.”

“Why couldn’t he find a nice French girl? He could have married my sister. She would have been perfect for him.”

Felix handed de la Croix his espresso and then turned back to his bills. Before he sat back down, he noticed a tall slim man walking through the park, who looked vaguely familiar. He scratched his head trying to recall where he had seen the man and then it struck him. The man was a female version of Branwen.

He walked to the window to observe the stranger. He had thick black hair that parted naturally in the middle and he wore a dark gray overcoat, with a black suit, a dark gray shirt and a black tie underneath.

As he walked underneath the alders, ash and oak trees of the park, he examined the nests and talked to himself. From the expression on his face, he seemed agitated and perturbed and from time to time he kicked out and the fallen leaves whirled about in the wind.

Suddenly he stopped and stared at the café. Felix stepped away from the window, unnerved by the man’s gaze.

The stranger crossed the street at a run and came directly to the café.

Felix pretended to be working when the door opened. He did not look up, as Marie-France greeted the man and he announced he would sit at the bar and have a coffee.

The copper bar was long and would seat twenty people but the man chose to take the seat in front of Felix.

Café au lait.”

D’accord,” said Felix, turning to the Italian espresso machine.

“Do you speak English?” asked the man.

Felix tried to place his accent before answering and then he had it; he was Irish.

“A little.”

“Do you live on this bloody Place?”

Pardon? Bloody?”

“Forget that man. Do you live here? Habitez-vous ici.”

À Paris?”

“No. Here on this street?”


“How long have these bloody birds been roosting here?”

“Seven months.”

He looked shocked for a moment and then he asked in a soft voice, “Have you seen her?”

Felix knew he was asking about Branwen but he was not going to volunteer any information to the young man.


“You stupid frog, her-Branwen.”

“Branwen?” he asked, exaggerating his French accent.

“My sister, Branwen O’Roy.”

“Your sister?”

“I am Brandon O’Roy.”

Felix was now curious so he exposed his hand. “I met a French woman named Branwen, not an Irish woman.”

“She speaks frog just like you. Hell, she speaks twelve languages perfectly. She’s a bloody mimic, a chameleon. She blends in wherever she is.”

Felix suspected that he was now talking to himself again.

“When did you see this French Branwen last?”

“Seven months ago.”

“When the bloody birds arrived?”

“She is so predictable. She’s here. I can smell her.”

He drank his coffee quickly and then without another word, he left.


Felix woke early on Friday. The wind had died down during the night and it was clear and cold. The birds seemed excited or agitated, as they flew about under the trees and then into the air, circling the park, like great black clouds.

Later, when he opened the café he noticed a woman walking out of the park. She wore a long black overcoat, black high heels, black stockings, and a black tailored wool suit. Her long black hair hung loose and tossed behind her in the wind.

Like her brother the day before, Branwen crossed the street and entered the café.
She sat at the bar and ordered a chocolate croissant and a cappuccino.

Felix didn’t know what to say. Should he tell her that a crazy Irishman that looked like her twin had been there the day before asking for her or was her sudden appearance after seven months an indication that she knew that Brandon O’Roy was in town.

“How are you?”

“Do you remember me?”

“Of course. How could I forget you?”

She laughed and pulled her hair back with her right hand. It shone like a raven’s wing.

“I hear that my twin brother has been looking for me.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“The crows told me. They know everything that happens on this Place.”

He looked at her to see if she would smile or laugh but she maintained a straight face.

“He was here yesterday.”

“What did you tell him?”

“That I had not seen you for seven months.”

“Has it been that long?” she said softly.

“Yes,” he whispered.

She looked into his eyes and he felt he would drown in the blackness of her eyes.

“If he shows up again, tell him to meet me here tonight at ten.” She patted his hand and then turned to her coffee and pastry.

“I have a horrible sweet tooth,” she said with her mouth full.

At five o’clock it began to rain. It was a cold hard rain and people on the street ran for cover. Soon the bar at the café filled up with patrons ordering hot drinks and cognac. As more and more people entered seeking refuge from the sudden rain the café filled with blue cigarette smoke.

Felix and Marie-France scurried about the café and bar, serving drinks and making espressos and cappuccinos. At six the rain stopped and the clouds cleared but the temperature had dropped and the clouds now threatened snow.

At six thirty Brandon walked into the café. His overcoat was buttoned up and he had pulled the collar up for added protection. His cheeks were flushed and red from the cold and upon entering the café he pushed his way to the bar and asked Felix, “So?”

“What?” The people were so loud that Felix was having a hard time hearing.

“Did you see her?” Brandon shouted above the din.

“She will be here tonight.”

Brandon smiled sardonically and turned and pushed through the crowd and out the door. Everyone moaned at the cold that rushed in through the door as he left.

At eight the café was almost empty. Several people had cancelled because of the cold. Felix wore a black V-neck sweater over his usual white cotton shirt and he sat at the bar reading the newspaper. It had been a strange day, he thought.

Two couples entered the restaurant without a reservation and Felix assured them that it was all right tonight. They were locals, people that lived on the Place.

As he was seating the couple he heard the door open and he felt a shock of cold air. A tall thin man, with short white hair and tanned complexion entered. He was wearing an expensive black cashmere overcoat and leather gloves. Felix’s first thought was he was one of the lawyers from the office next door. But then he recognized him; he had seen him the night before being interviewed on Livre by Jacqueline Brevier.

As Laurence helped the man with his coat, Felix noted she held a black wooden cane. Beneath the coat the man wore a black tailored suit, a white shirt and a silk black tie.

Laurence handed him his cane and he moved toward the bar with a slight limp.

Felix hurried to the bar and asked the man if he wanted a drink. The man looked at him directly and Felix noted his large green eyes, prominent nose and high cheekbones. Finally, he said, “champagne.”

Felix opened a split and poured the champagne into a flute and then said, “Santé.”

As the man placed his cane on the bar, Felix observed that it had been carved by hand and that the handle was the head of a wolf.

“You are Monsieur Vogel?”


“I saw you on television last night.”

“What did you think?”

“I was fascinated by the subject; Georg Löwe was an interesting man.”

“Still is. He is one hundred and five.”

“How is his health?”

“Much better than you would suspect.”

“You wrote a book on Sartre, as well?”

The man smiled and said, “I sold about fifty copies.”

“I intend to buy your books on Sunday. That is the only day that I have off.”

“Let me know if you do and I will come by and sign them for you.”

The door opened and they both shivered as two young women entered. One was tall and dark with short-cropped hair. The other was younger with blonde hair and blue eyes. They were wearing colorful down coats. The dark woman wore a red one and the blonde a blue one.

Vogel turned and said, “Simone, how nice of you to come.”

She walked toward Vogel quickly and stopped him from getting up. “How’s the leg?”

“The same. It will always be this way.”

The other woman asked, “What happened?”

“I was shot a few years ago in Berlin. It’s a long story.”

Simone said, “Monique, Monsieur Vogel is a spy.”


“I wouldn’t use that term Simone. I used to work for the United States government. A young German shot me in Berlin on a night like this.”

Before Monique could ask another question, Karl Wisent and Elise Schlesinger entered. Karl was a large man with dark auburn hair and Felix always thought his name, Wisent, which meant bison, was appropriate for the dour Berliner.

Vogel stood up and leaned on his cane, waiting for Wisent to shake his hand. They greeted each other in German. Elise held back and Felix thought she was shy. She was of medium height with long black hair and green eyes. There was something wolf-like about her and Felix thought of Vogel’s cane.

“Let me show you to your table.”

During the next forty-five minutes the café slowly filled up, mostly with people from the neighborhood who didn’t want to travel far in the cold.

Felix was so busy by nine thirty that he had forgotten about Brandon and Branwen.

He was standing at the bar opening a bottle of Medoc when Branwen entered.

He had reserved a table for two for her in the warmest corner of the restaurant. He left the bottle on the bar and took her coat and handed it to Laurence when she passed on her way to the kitchen, where Robert Levy, the night chef, and his two assistants were working.

As he turned to show her to her table she placed her hands on his shoulder and gave him a kiss on each cheek. Once again he smelled her chocolate perfume and musk and he felt a spasm of desire. Must be the pheromones, he thought.

She ordered the duck and a bottle of the Pomerol and for the next hour, when he had the chance, he stopped at her table to fill her glass or ask if she needed anything.

He noticed Vogel watching her and for a brief moment he felt a twinge of jealousy. The truth, he thought, is that we are both too old for her.

A little after ten Brandon arrived with a whoosh. Before Laurence could get to him he had already taken off his overcoat, slung it across an empty chair at the bar and was striding toward Branwen’s table. He was like a force of nature, thought Felix, intimidated by the man’s vitality and energy.

Felix followed him to the table and poured him a glass of the wine and asked if he wanted to see the menu.

“Steak,” he said, dismissing Felix.

At first the two talked quietly but soon they began to shout. Everyone else in the room stopped talking.

“It’s mine,” she said. “I am here and here I will stay. Go and find yourself another place.”

“But I found this one. I searched and searched and it is mine.”

“No,” she said. “It is impossible. We are here. It is as simple as that. Full stop.”

His face turned a bright red, before he stood and slapped her. Wisent was half way out of his chair, as was several others, but Felix rushed across the room with his hands doubled up into fists. But before he could reach Brandon, the boy had turned and was moving through the tables on his way out.

As he passed Wisent’s table, Vogel stuck his cane between the young man’s long legs and he fell to the floor. The fall stunned everyone, especially Brandon, who immediately began to push himself up. Vogel, however, now stood with the tip of his cane pressed hard onto Brandon’s spine.
“If you move an inch I will sever your spine.”

Vogel then called to Laurence to bring both his, Branwen’s and the young man’s coats.

Wisent asked, “What are you doing?”

Vogel waved his hand and said, “Finish your dinner. I will be right back.”

As soon as Laurence returned with the coats, Vogel backed away from Brandon and let him stand. The young man turned and glared at the older man, while Branwen passed them both, took her coat and hurried to the door.

Felix watched as they crossed the street and disappeared into the shadows of the trees. Fat flakes of snow fell slowly onto the sidewalk.


Snow accumulated under the trees, as Vogel led the way to the center of the park to a wrought iron bench and sat down, where he ordered, “Sit next to me you two.”

Branwen looked at him and then sat to his right but Brandon refused to move.

“I said sit, Brandon.”

Brandon sheepishly looked at him and then sat.

“This is a good place. I can tell it. The memory lines move through here and the sacred memories still live. I understand why Brandon chose it.”

Vogel looked over his shoulder toward the café and added, “It is obvious that Felix’s ancestors knew its worth. That is why they built their homes here. It is really his, this place. But he has forgotten everything. To him it is only a place in his dreams and you woman are only a symbol of desire.”

“We are coming back and I need a place to settle, a place to nest.”

“So like a woman,” Vogel said with a laugh. “And you, if you had not been flying around like a crazy teenager you might have had this place. Have you ever thought that all your wandering is wasteful?”

“Without the wandering I would never have found this place.”

“Isn’t it too close to Notre Dame?”

“No, it is fine,” said Branwen.

Brandon nodded his approval.

“You should share this space. Branwen can develop and nurture it and you can stop here and rest from your travels.”

“Many of our kind have already arrived. Did you notice how many had the old blood in the restaurant?”

“I didn’t notice anything.”

“Of course not. You were too busy being a bully.”

“Stop it. Share it and let our brother in on the secret. I am cold and I am going in.”

As he walked away, Branwen called out, “Take care wolf.”

He stopped and turned and whispered, “You take care crow.”

Vogel walked slowly back to the restaurant and stopped before the door. He turned and watched the snow settle onto the trees of the park and he noted the crow nests in the branches of the trees but he could not see the buildings because he was remembering another time. The memory lines sang and vibrated and he heard the whine and screech of the pipes.
Karl opened the door and asked, “ça va?

“Of course, King Bison, of course.”

The End

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

"Cafe Corbeau" by Keith Harvey

Café Corbeau

The pigeon-the hawk-the nez bourbon--table for two-the roost

Felix Beinix awoke to the sound of the green garbage trucks entering the square, known as Place Triangle, an ancient neighborhood located between the Sorbonne on the south and the Seine on the north.

The green trucks were usually the first sound he heard each morning. The second was the city employees hosing down the street, cleaning the detritus from the night before, forcing it into the drains and the sewers and ultimately into the river. The third was Madame Fouchard winding the awnings open over the windows and door of her boulangerie or Monsieur Bleyer opening the automatic metal shutters over the door to his patisserie. The fourth was the sound of the storeowners scrubbing down the sidewalks, washing away pigeon droppings.

It was spring and Beinix’s apartment windows were open and he could hear all these familiar sounds, sounds he had listened to for the last twenty years. Today, however, there was a new sound, one he had not yet gotten use to. It was the sound of a congress of crows, which had decided to make the trees of the park, which occupied the center of the Place Triangle, their roost.

He owned a bar and cafe and the building that housed them on the Place Triangle. The building consisted of five stories with two apartments on each of the four stories above the ground, where the bar and café were situated.

Felix’s father left him the bar and café. When his father died, Felix had been in Southeast Asia, flying a helicopter for the French Navy. No one could remember who was the first Beinix to own the building. It had been passed from father to son for centuries.

The building was constructed of granite and some stonemason had placed a gargoyle on each corner of the building. At one time the building had been called the Corbeau and that name was still carved in the stone above the door, leading into the apartment building.

Felix’s father had named the café/bar-Café Corbeau.

The family believed that when the Beinix family was Celt, they called themselves Corbeau. The Romans, however, made them change their name and they chose Beinix.
He lay quietly, identifying each sound, before he kicked off the covers of the bed and swung his legs to the floor.

He looked at his legs and noted how thin they were and he remembered the muscles he used to have when he was young. He stood up and walked to the bathroom and paused in front of a mirror and examined his nude body. His stomach was flat but his arms and legs seemed thin and frail, although he was not aware of any loss of strength. He was still able to hoist the cases of wine and liquor out of the delivery vans and sweep the bar and mop the floor and polish the copper fittings and clean the mirrors.

There was something birdlike about his body and he often imagined that he was a starling, although he couldn’t sing or fly. It was just a fantasy he had. He tended to see all people as a type of animal.

In addition to his belief that all people were somehow connected to an animal, he agreed with Hemingway that a bar should be a clean well-lit place, where people could sit and read or write over their cognac. He purposely created such a place for such people and, as a result of his plan or fantasy that was usually the type of patrons that visited his place on the Place Triangle.

He shaved his thick black beard carefully with a straight razor and then showered. Later, he walked about his large apartment that was directly above his bar, straightening it up from last night. He was an insomniac and after closing the bar he usually read or watched television and wandered around the apartment. In the morning, he picked up newspapers, glasses, and books, made the bed, watered the plants, fed his two finches, cleaned their cage and then dressed.

He wore the same thing every day- a white cotton shirt that he ironed himself, black woolen slacks, and Italian loafers with a tassel. He combed his thick hair straight back and he examined himself one more time in front of the mirror. He checked the time. It was eight forty five, the time he opened the back door for his two morning employees-Marie-France Rosier and Guillermo de la Peña.

He walked down the narrow wooden steps that led from the hall of the first floor to the back door of the ground floor. The stairs were dark and he descended them slowly. Since he turned fifty he had become concerned about falls. For some reason he felt fragile, although his looks had not really changed in ten years.

The stairs ended in a foyer where there were three doors. One door led to the building’s lobby. Another opened onto the back alley and the third served as the back entrance to the Corbeau. He unlocked the door to the alley and Guillermo immediately pushed against it. Felix jumped back to avoid being hit and the Spaniard entered with a big grin on his face. Felix wondered why he was always happy.

“Hola, Felix, “ said Guillermo pushing past him.

Guillermo was twenty-seven years old, tall and thin, with a week old growth of black stubble on his thin face, and long blue-black hair that hung to his shoulders. He wore a white T-shirt and a pair of American jeans and red tennis shoes. He carried a backpack slung over his right shoulder and when he smiled Felix was always startled by the whiteness of his teeth.

“Ça va? mon copain?” asked Felix.

“Si, Si.”

Guillermo hung his backpack on a peg on the wall of the back hall and then followed Felix to the front, turning on lights as he walked.

Once inside the café, Guillermo turned toward the kitchen, which was behind a long and elegant copper bar, as Felix unlocked the pad locks on the steel shutters that covered the windows and the door of Café Corbeau.

Once the shutters were up, Felix opened the front door and then rolled out the green awning and set up five tables in the front of the restaurant.

Students on their way to school passed by and called out greetings to Felix, while he watched the patrons line up in front of the patisserie next door.

In the small park in the center of the Place, several men sat on wooden benches patiently waiting for Felix to wave them in. These men appeared every morning and would sit and drink cognac as they read their papers and talked politics. Most of them were in their sixties but some were seventy or eighty. They were friends of his father and his grandfather. They were pensioners and widowers and veterans and Felix’s bar and café was their refuge from the loneliness of their lives.

This morning Felix noted that the trees of the park were full of crows. Over the past few weeks, crows, black birds and ravens had decided to make the trees in the Place Triangle into their rookery. Felix felt a strange attraction to them but sometimes their incessant sounds, machine like in their quality and consistency, were annoying. The only bright spot was that, unlike the pigeons, the crows were usually gone by the time he opened the bar and they did not return until the evening.

Some of the people on the Place had complained to the city and several inspectors had appeared and noted the unusual congress of the crows. The city responded by hanging several painted wooden owls from high limbs in the trees but these owls for all their verisimilitude did not seem to have an effect on the birds.

Over the last few weeks Felix suspected that the crows were waiting for something. After all, they had never been there before and he could see no rhyme or reason for their appearance now. Other than several alders, oaks, and ashes in the petite park there was nothing there that would attract a crow.

At eight fifty five, Marie-France appeared on the back of her boyfriend’s BMW. Once upon the curb, she pulled off her black helmet and attached it to the seat of the bike, kissed François on each cheek and then turned to Felix, who she kissed three times.

He looked at his watch and said, “just barely.”

“You know I am never late. It was such a nice morning that we stayed in bed a little longer.” She winked at him.

She had thick curly blonde hair, brown eyes and brown skin. She was short and a little plump. She was his day waitress and she could cover the whole bar and café without breaking a sweat during its busiest times. She wore the same outfit as Felix, a white cotton shirt, black woolen slacks and flat black shoes.

As he followed her into the bar, he smelled fresh coffee brewing and saw that Guillermo had pulled his chef’s hat on and was wearing a white smock with his name initialed on his left breast.
Pierre Londais entered, carrying an armful of baguettes from the boulangerie across the Place. Pierre’s arrival always signaled the workday had started.

At nine thirty, Felix was setting the tables outside when he felt a blow to his shoulder, causing him to fall over a chair and hit his head against the pavement. For a moment he lost consciousness.

When he came to, after only a moment, he discovered Marie-France holding his head in her lap.

“He’s awake,” she said, and several people standing around him expressed their happiness that he was still alive.

“What happened?”

“You were hit on the head by a pigeon.”


“A pigeon fell from the sky and hit you.”

To prove her point Mathieu, one of younger pensioners, held a dead pigeon up to his face.

“My God.”

“Can you stand?” asked Marie-France.

“I believe so.”

He stood up carefully and reached behind his head and felt a large knot. He noted that a few drops of blood were on his fingers.

“ Should we get you to a doctor?” asked Mathieu.

“No, I’ll be all right.” He hated doctors and hospitals. “I would rather die than go to a doctor.

Several people helped him inside to the bar, where Guillermo poured him a small glass of cognac.

The pensioners must have thought that his glass of cognac signaled that the bar was open because they followed him in and took up their usual places around the café.

“You might as well start serving them,” he said to Marie-France. “I’ll be all right.”

She examined him closely, trying to decide whether she should believe him or not.

Mathieu put the dead bird next to him on the bar.

At ten o’clock the Corbeau began to fill up with students and teachers from the Sorbonne. One regular, Marc de la Croix, a history professor, who appeared every day, sat at his usual table near the window and ordered a croissant, a cappuccino, and a cognac.

Professor de La Croix was a stocky man in his early forties. He had ruddy cheeks and thick blond hair that cascaded off his round head. He usually wore a brown suit, with a yellow shirt and a paisley bowtie.

When de la Croix entered today he said good morning to Felix as he always did but he paused for a moment and examined the pigeon. He did not ask why the dead bird rested on the bar nor did he comment on the fact that Felix’s shirt was stained with blood. He simply took his usual seat and ordered.

After a while, Felix went up stairs, washed his face, doctored the bump on his head, took an aspirin and changed his shirt. When he returned, the bar was full and he took his place at the door, where he greeted guests, made out their checks and took their money.

He noticed that someone had removed the pigeon.

At noon, a new woman walked through the door. She reminded Felix of the crows in the trees in the Place. She was tall, almost as tall as Felix, with black eyes and long black hair that she had braided. She possessed a nez bourbon, a racial characteristic of the old French aristocracy that Felix found irresistible. She wore a white silk blouse, a black leather mini skirt, and flat shoes. She carried a weathered leather briefcase and she smelled like chocolate and musk.

“Table for two?” she asked.

“Outside or in?”

“Outside, please. In the shade.”

“There was only one table available but it was in the sun. Felix went to the back and brought out a large green umbrella, which he set up in such a way that the table was now in the shade.

He helped her with her seat and as he did he breathed in her perfume and he felt for a moment dizzy.

“May I get you something?”

“A glass of Sauvignon Blanc.”

He hurried inside, poured the glass himself, and took it to her. As he passed Marie-France she gave him a strange look and he simply shrugged.

Mathieu, on his way out, asked, “Did you notice that the pigeon’s breast was ripped out?”


“He must have been attacked by one of those hawks that the city has brought in to cut down on the pigeon population.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The city has brought in hundreds of hawks to keep the pigeon population down. It was in Figaro. Of course, there have been several demonstrations at l'Assemblée Nationale on behalf of the pigeons.

As soon as Mathieu left, Felix asked Guillermo, “Where’s the pigeon?”

He looked up from the omelet he was preparing and pointed to the back.

Felix went down the hall to the back door and then into the alley where the large trash containers were. He opened theirs and examined the dead pigeon that lay on top of a pile of potato peels.

Mathieu was right, he thought, the breast of the pigeon had been ripped from its body.

He walked back through the café and out onto the sidewalk, then crossed the street and entered the small park through a black wrought iron fence. Standing under the trees he examined his building. At the top, perched on top of one of the gargoyles was a hawk, the killer of the pigeon.

As he crossed the street he realized that the crows were gone. They must have left while he was unconscious.

As he passed the woman’s table, he asked, “Would you like another glass of wine?”

She looked up from her book and he was struck once again by the blackness of her eyes.


“Should I remove this place setting?”

“No, my friend is coming. He is always late.”

De la Croix beckoned him to his table.

“Who is she?”

“I don’t know. I have never seen her before.”

“She’s a beautiful woman. Look at that nose. She must have Bourbon blood. It is magnificent. You know what Freud would say about that nose?”

“No. But she is attractive. She possesses the old French looks and grace.”

“For men like us, Beinix, that look is irresistible.”

“Men like us?”

“Men with the old Gallic blood.”

As they admired the woman, a tall man, with dark skin and black hair approached her table. He was tall and powerfully built, with hooded eyes and a nose like a hawk’s beak.

He wore leather pants and boots, a red silk shirt, dark glasses, a silver bracelet on each wrist and silver earrings in each ear. When he reached her table he bent down and kissed the woman on each cheek and then pulled out his chair and moved it closer to her.

Felix excused himself and raced Marie-France to their table to ask the man if he wanted something to drink.

The man ordered a cognac and an espresso.

Felix let Marie-France serve them. While he stood behind the bar and watched them, he guessed that they were not lovers because the woman tensed up, when the man kissed her.

The couple ate and then talked for another hour. Sometimes their voices rose and Felix watched them carefully from a distance. He had not been caught in such a snare for a long time. He was trapped by the woman’s looks and smell.

At two thirty the two stood, kissed briefly, and then left. The man walked toward the Sorbonne, while the woman turned and walked into the park. Felix assumed that she would pass through the park and emerge on the other side of the Place and take the short street that led to the Seine.

They closed the kitchen at three and Guillermo left. Marie-France would stay until five, when the evening shift would arrive. Felix cleaned all the tables and then he and Marie-France placed cloth tablecloths on the tables and set them for dinner.

The bar area stayed open all day.

At four thirty Felix returned to his room, undressed and lay down for a two-hour nap. He left the windows open and listened to pigeons cooing on the ledge outside his window.

While he slept he dreamed that the woman in the café came to him and offered him a square bar of peat, which he held in his hands like some sacred object. As she was handing it to him, he smelled her perfume and she leaned toward him and he kissed her on each cheek and he felt excited and safe.

At six thirty his alarm went off and he showered and shaved and then walked downstairs.

Robert Levy, the night chef, stood in the kitchen, talking with Tasco, his assistant, a short, dark Sicilian, and Laurence, the waitress, was standing at the bar listening to Professor de la Croix.

Felix heard him say, “the Keltoi or the hidden people once ruled this land but they were conquered by the Romans and driven out by other tribes. They worshipped their gods in sacred groves and sometimes identified themselves by a tree."

“They had their own calendars and this time of the year would be associated with the alder and the hawk.”

“Why animals and trees?”

“They were close to nature and associated their own qualities with those of the animals and trees around them.”

With his dream still fresh in his mind, Felix asked the Professor, “Do you know what peat is?”

“Of course, it is the early formation of coal. It consists of dead vegetation, insects, sometimes-decaying bodies, waste, and water. It is sometimes used as fuel by people in rural areas.”

“Why do you ask?”

“I had a dream, where a woman handed me a block of peat.”

The professor started to laugh. “I think that I would reassess that relationship.”

“Me, too,” said Laurence.

Felix glared at her and she jumped off the stool and walked to the back. Laurence was short and dark and lithe, the opposite of Marie-France. She moved around the café in a hurry and sometimes Felix imagined that she was a sparrow hopping on a ledge or chasing a worm in the garden.

Felix walked out onto the sidewalk and looked up and down the street. The shops were closed and the sun was setting. The crows were returning to their roost and he watched as they flew in over the roofs of the building on the Place Triangle to join the congress.

Laurence came out to join him and said, “We’re full tonight.”

“Good. When is the first reservation?”

“Seven thirty.”

At eight thirty the café was full and both Laurence and Felix were scurrying about servicing the diners. He was standing on the sidewalk pouring the wine for a table of four sitting under one of his green umbrellas when he heard the sound of a scooter close to him and he turned to see the woman from lunch pulling up to the curb astride a red Italian scooter. She wore a black leather mini skirt, black leather flats, a gray silk blouse, and a red helmet.
Without turning off the engine of the scooter, she called out, “do you have a table for me?”
Felix finished pouring the wine and walked to the curb.

“No, we are full but you could eat at the bar.”

“Perfect,” she said and parked her scooter on the sidewalk near the door of the café.

Later, Felix placed a menu in front of her. There was only six items.

“I would like a glass of red.”

“I have a nice Lalande de Pomerol.”

“That and the rabbit.”

He placed her order with Robert and then poured her a glass of the red.

“My name is Felix.”

‘Yes, I know. I am Branwen.”

“Odd name. An old name.”

“As old as they get, Felix.”

She looked at him with a twinkle in her eye before she took a sip of the wine.

“Nice, quite nice.”

“And your friend, does he have an old name?”

“Yes. His name is Horace and his name and blood are very old.”

“A noble, huh.”

She laughed. “Not French. He is an Egyptian.”

Branwen stayed until eleven thirty and Felix walked her to her scooter afterwards.

“I hope you come back?”

“I am moving back into the neighborhood.”


“I used to live here a long time ago. You know that this Place is one of the few sacred spots left in Paris that someone hasn’t built a Cathedral or a mosque on top of. Ages ago it was a sacred grove and we came here to worship but we forgot but now we have remembered and we are coming back. They are trying to stop us of course but they won’t be able to this time. They are not as strong as the Romans; their blood is mixed and their resolve . . ..” She waved her arm absently as if to dismiss the unnamed people.

“What are you talking about?”

“Listen to your blood, brother starling, and you will figure it out.”

She kissed him on each cheek, then pulled on her red helmet and mounted her scooter.
Felix closed the café at one and trudged up the stairs. He did not turn on the lights of the apartment because he did not want to attract mosquitoes and moths to the lights. He undressed completely and sat in a leather chair overlooking the park and the old trees. He heard the crows in the trees and he saw two bats flying around one of the streetlights. Somewhere near by he heard doves cooing. He could not remember this much wildlife in the Place. Maybe this was what she was talking about; maybe she was talking about the return of the birds.

He fell asleep in the chair and he dreamed about her. She was in a great field, walking toward a grove of trees on a nearby hill. She was completely naked but her body was painted blue and green and she wore a crown of silver filigree and on the crown near her temples there were two tiny silver leaves. As she walked her haired flowed behind her and he heard her say. “We are coming back to the sacred places.” And then he saw in the dream hundreds of crows flying out of the north toward the hill and beneath the crows wolves ran and she led them all.
The next morning he woke early, dressed, and crossed the street to the park, where he noticed that the crows had made hundreds of nests in the trees. The crows were waking and preparing to leave their roost and go about their business for the day. They seemed not to notice him as he walked under the trees.

When he walked out of the park on his way back to the café, he saw a hawk land on the head of one of the gargoyles and take up its place. A flock of pigeons burst into the air upon the arrival of the hawk, circle the Place, and then flew off in the direction of Notre Dame, while Felix thought about his dream and the woman.

The End