by Steven Gray
Giant condors flap outside the windows of my apartment. They live on the fire escape and try to scare me with their sudden wingspans and approaches. They swoop in and deposit dead dogs, things like that, things I don’t even want to think about. They are vultures, some of the few remaining from the mountains of California. They are trying out the steep cliffs of the city, where they can smell death I suppose. Everyone is coming into town these days. Maybe they are from the dead-end Andes, but that is a long way to come in order to hover over the alleys of San Francisco. They have instilled a sense of paranoia in this resident. Their weird cries and landing patterns, throwing shadows on the bamboo blinds that I have been keeping drawn. I would prefer peacocks, but I never had a choice in the matter.
One of their young, a vulturette, has taken to sitting on my shoulder. It crept in one day when I left the window open. It must have liked the sound of my typing. It sits there even now, tightening and relaxing its grip. It utters a piercing cry now and then. If I was nervous before, I am more than nervous now. I have taken to wearing an earring on that side to pacify it, but I realize the danger. If its vicious mother ever gets wind of the notion it is in danger, I would be no better off than Prometheus bound. Stuck on the sofa with a giant condor getting a grip on my chest like a strong drug.
It is an endangered species, nearly extinct. So am I, what with my endangered and estranged specialties. I like to stretch out in thin air, clinging to hard rock and the lifeless crystal, surveying everything with an eye that picks up something dead from miles away. Maybe that is how these condors came to be outside the window. My condition conjured them. They haven’t injured me and I haven’t injured them, although my friends don’t come around much anymore. In the morning I get up and open the window and throw the birds raw meat. They live on a ledge and keep me on edge. It’s the least I can do. They are looking up with blood-stained beaks and something like a fierce sympathy in their eyes.
I haven’t had to think about burglaries since they have been out there. Anyone trying to break in would be torn apart, or carried off over the city and dropped in the financial district. My main worry is the neighbors. They might complain, particularly if the birds keep piling up bones, or pick up students from the high school down the street and deposit them under the window as an offering, thinking I might appreciate the sentiment. I would, but that is because I don’t like high school students. Fortunately, to shoot a condor is illegal, so there is more than a chance of their surviving, especially if I provide them with a condorminium. But shooting humans is illegal too, and that doesn’t seem to stop anyone.
I have taken to wearing a leather wristband. The young vulture perches there. I feed it bits of raw liver. It is nice that I don’t have to cook for them. I am training this one to fly off the cuff, pick up stuff around the room and bring it to me. I am waiting for when it will pull the covers over me and some lover with its beak. Don’t tell me that wouldn’t impress a girl. I would teach it to undress her without a scratch. Any woman who would consent to that would be a perfect match.
Steven Gray has been living in San Francisco since 1849 and has rent control. Self control is another matter. He reads his work on a regular basis in venues throughout San Francisco. Sometimes he accompanies other poets on guitar. He is co-editor of Out of Our, a poetry and art magazine, and has two books of poetry: Jet Shock and Culture Lag (2012), and Shadow on the Rocks (2011).