Literary Yard

Search for meaning

By: Arthur Russell

Photo by Tim Gouw on

A pigeon pursued by a shadow
shot the gap between buildings
like a fighter plane from the early sun
toward my balcony.
Its skull rang the double pane
with a metal clang, and it fell
to the concrete floor, its grey chest heaving.

Specks of head feather made a circular mark
on the glass. I slid the heavy door aside.

The noise that fills our city courtyards
poured into my home like foam peanuts
in a shipping box. I went outside
in my pajama pants and knelt between
the pigeon and my failed avocado,
whose chopstick crutch was stouter than the stem
I’d twist tied to it; and the bird I feared,
as a city boy, to touch, whose death
I feared to share – compassion caught like a foot
in the fork of a tree – lay breathing slowly.

It had a short, yellow beak with dark
striations like an old piano key,
and, at its base, instead of pince nez glasses,
waxy bulbs of whitish nostril rested.
The tiny head where it had punched the glass
swelled like the knot on a Sikh boy’s turban.
Its well-black eye was glazing toward milk.

On the next-roof-over parapet, nonchalant
and motionless, a pyramid of patience,
I saw the shadowed peregrine waiting
for the pigeon it had chased to panicked death
to die. And I, with eyes made mother-hard,
stood and thrust my chin out at the falcon,
which turned its head to show me how its dark beak curved.

I reached back for the beach chair then, too intent
to turn away, and set it like a tent
above the dying bird, and went inside,
and closed the sliding door behind me,
cutting off the noise.

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