What a strange thing to see in a dream,
How the word pigeon is an ugly word.
But that is what I saw, with its ending like sturgeon,
Truncheon, dudgeon, and its beginning our name for swine.
I think I remember my father
Used to misspell the word consistently,
Making it “pidgeon” as though to connect it
With pleasanter words like “smidgen” or “midge.”
This morning as I walk to Civic Center to select flowers
At the farmer’s market to take to my friend in the hospital
Pigeons will be an encounter: I may be struck in the face
As a group determinedly changes course, or my feet impeded
When streets are negotiated through a convening flock.
Because my friend is dying of cancer our visits are not long
But she may notice the roses I leave behind.
She does not seem the happy person we knew but a crone;
Another friend visiting thought there must be a mistake,
It had to be someone else in the bed. The left eye is screwed tight
Against the window glare, the right horribly reminds me
Of the expiring dinosaurs in Disney’s Fantasia I think I ought to know
(Children enjoy pigeons, and tear through them, laughing)
How everything – dreams, pigeons, roses, painful deaths – has its place
And that all is for the best. But the complacent stupidity of pigeons,
Flocks and flocks and flocks of them, infuriates!
Jonathan Bracker’s poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Writer’s Digest, and other periodicals; in several small press anthologies; and in seven small press collections. His Concerning Poetry: Poems About Poetry was published this year by the Upper Hand Press.He is the editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems Of Christopher Morley (University of Pennsylvania Press: 1965), co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley (Twayne Press: 1976), and editor of A Little Patch Of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages Of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse (Moving Finger Press: 2013). Bracker has lived in San Francisco since 1973.
Artwork: Julius Neubronner, With Pigeon and Camera, 1914, public domain.