Cunning Crow Books

Books, poems, and sketches by Dan Richman and friends

Whatever Helps

I was out on 21st Street one foggy morning at 8:00 AM. A bluejay screamed down at me from one of the many wires that dissect the sky. Her metallic yelping pinged off the walls that rise on either side of the street. A woman hurrying down the sidewalk toward the bus-stop paused and asked me, “Is that bird squawking at you?” ”Yes,” I said. “She wants her cashew nuts.” Which was true. I had been feeding the jays every morning, but that morning had overslept. The woman laughed and said, “Thank you. I needed something to get through my day.” And she clattered off on her high heels.


Tigers in the Tank

A young Palestinian grocer friend of mine has a 50-gallon fish tank in his store on Douglas Street which is his pride and joy and the subject of many of our excited conversations, since I too am a “fish-fancier” (what a poetic expression!). Last night he told me that his oscars, potentially ferocious fish, had lived peacefully enough with gentle tank-mates, until his naughty cousins, keepers of the store while he vacationed, introduced live goldfish into the tank just to watch them be pursued and devoured by the oscars. Now, he says, they are are satisfied with nothing but live flesh, though for two years he had fed them “sliced turkey meat and they smiled.” The result is that every other fish in the tank, hitherto unmolested, has been devoured by the three devils. Read the rest of this entry »


Reading on the bus about African wildlife, I thought of a thing that happened twenty years ago, when I brought a girl-friend’s ten-year-old son to the SF Zoo. He was…well, how should I say it? A very bright, very bad boy. Insanely willfull, anyway. Completely contemptuous of authority. Zinging with energy, much of it malevolent. Though he and I got along well enough. I suppose he really needed a father and I was the guy with the long pants on for a while anyway. Read the rest of this entry »


Today, in the very last half hour of a strenuous carpentry project, I managed to drill my left hand with a screw gun – plow it like a harrow in soil.

Oh, the blood! It fell in big thick bright red drops. Right on the fresh redwood treads of the stairs I had built. It’s a good thing they’ll be painted.

How red my blood was! I don’t believe I’ve ever see anything redder than my blood this afternoon. Read the rest of this entry »

The Mussel Trap

My daughter Rachael told me she saw a young duck floundering on the mud-flats at low tide near Larkspur Creek in Marin County. On closer examination, it turned out the dumb duck had stepped into a carpet of open mussels, who of course snapped shut on her feet. So now the poor thing was held down by a black vise attached to a hundred others by those strings of theirs, while vainly trying to shake another off her other foot – with, naturally, the tide rising. Good souls showed up and with a shovel picked up the hysterical duck, mussels and all, pried them off the bird, then turned her over to the Animal Control people. I’m waiting for the movie of this – “Mussels From Hell.”