Greenwood Encyclopedia of African American Literature

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Pigeons, Please

I haven't seen a pigeon in a long time. Some pigeons used to roost in the belfry at the parish to which I belong, but I think difficulties arose regarding their leavings, and someone installed some wire.

I think pigeons, like seagulls and crows, don't have great reputations. They annoy a lot of people, these birds. Some people adore pigeons, of course, including the few Italians who feed them in Piazza San Marco, which may well be the headquarters of Pigeon United Nations. I think there are some pigeons in downtown T-Town, but I haven't seen any in a while.

Sometimes I do get a bit weary watching pigeons walk because they seem to use the weight of their heads for propulsion, so with each step they thrust their heads forward. Empathetically, I start getting headaches and neck-aches. Pigeons' eyes and feather-coloring are very pleasant to look at. Pigeons seem very eager, almost as if they worked in sales, but they're not obstreperous and bossy, unlike some crows we might mention.

Probably cities with large populations of pigeons have tales to tell about how much trouble they are. . . .I used to see cousins of pigeons, doves, in the Sierra Nevada every so often. Lovely.

I've eaten squab--or cooked pigeon--once only. Fictional detective and large gourmand Nero Wolfe eats a lot of squab in those books--as well as starlings.

A friend of mine doesn't particularly like the Seahawks, Seattle's professional football team (it's a complicated story), so he refers to the them as the Sea Squab, a fine example of a satirist's deflationary move, with no loss of alliteration.

I'm not sure if this "information" springs from an urban legend or not, but I've heard that carrier pigeons are extinct. I'll need to investigate further--or await a tiny scroll delivered by a bird.

Maybe the most interesting thing about pigeons to me is the sounds they make in their throats--hence this poem:

Pigeons’ Throats

Trickling cold-water springs bubble up
in the throats of pigeons.

In the throats of pigeons,
weary orderlies push medicine-carts

down dim hospital corridors, and
the one weak, wobbly wheel eeks.

Old men and women sit around
tables, mutter alibis, lullabies,

and goodbyes in parlors
I've imagined in pigeons' throats,

which speak in pigeon-code of untraveled
highways upholstered in ground-mist . . .

gray, green, and purple purses full of coins from
a lost currency. . . pearl light of train-windows, dawn.

Hans Ostrom

Copyright 2008 Hans Ostrom

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