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

Thursday, October 05, 2006

"The Bite" by Keith Harvey

The Bite

She tattooed his ruddy cheek
with a fatal toothy bite
that resembled a rusty horse’s shoe
and infected his blood with a rabies
so virulent that through his vengeful words
and shaman’s chant
he raised a boar
that gored her side
and burned her blonde fuzz
in a gas chamber assembled
from metallic metaphors
in his English garden.