A Eulogy, Maybe


Nobody praises pigeons. Of course the dove,
symbolic snow or silver aglow in myth,
begetter of gods, like the swan, is another story.
Even the sparrow earns a kind of glory
street-fighting for his bread, tough, resolute,
evasive and trim in his practical city brown.
But he lives under and above, not with
the human neighbors with whom he shares the town,
just out of reach, nowhere and everywhere.
Swallow and jay,
blackbird in his fashionable suit,
beguile us in passing. Sometimes transfigured air
shimmers with some exotic guest
or echoes with a call
too far, too wild for any nest.
We bend with longing, the secret homage of
something in us that wants to fly away.

But pigeons, too plump for glamour, circumspect,
must settle for a crumb
of scant affection, no respect at all.
And still, they come.
Assuming welcome, they turn up in a bunch
like relatives; relentless, they find us
in our solitude, and stay for lunch.
Mostly earthbound,
like us, their conversation's not select.
They strut for hours, mutter old news
and make the most of any common ground.
Fulfilled by sidewalks and by vagrants' shoes,
they have no interest in the rare or far,
and stoop for our stale bread, as to remind us
of who and what and why and where we are.


Rhina P. Espaillat, Playing at Stillness, Truman State University Press, 2005.