Poem of the Week | December 11, 2017
Brittney Scott: “Not Swan, but Pigeon: A Love Story”
Brittney Scott’s first poetry collection, The Derelict Daughter, won the New American Poetry Prize. She is also a recipient of the Joy Harjo Prize for Poetry, as well as the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Best New Poets, Prairie Schooner, The New Republic, Narrative Magazine, Cincinnati Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Linebreak, Indiana Review, and elsewhere. She homesteads on seven acres in rural Virginia.
Not Swan, but Pigeon: A Love Story
He arrived with the daffodils,
the heartleaf, fleabane, and spring’s
His manner was unmistakably domestic,
like a father cooking breakfast in his slippers.
When I approached, he approached
pumping his stout viridian neck,
his rudimentary attempt at depth perception.
From my open palm, he ate
sunflower seeds and millet.
He appraised me, our sharing
of seeds and a four chambered heart,
The white, swollen mass at his bill’s base
dirtied like gritty city snow
clogging the grates.
Each evening he perched on the patio’s edge,
looking in the way a pigeon can look
wistfully toward the sunset
and then he would fly up over the tree line.
The purity of his arrival each morning,
free of obligation,
felt more like love
than motherhood, than childhood,
He shit all over everything
and trotted it around on the patio furniture.
It makes sense I was given the pigeon,
a poor woman’s burnt offering,
this iridescent pest, this mundane miracle,
proof of my existence, that I can, after all,
be seen. He dozed on the arm of my reading chair,
and moved as the line of shade
moved along the porch.
But purity works in impermanence
and an offering passes
from heart to heart without permission.
He was here, and then he was gone,
and the long days began to shorten.
I moved to the country, to a farmhouse on seven acres in rural Virginia, in the spring of 2015. Only a few months after moving in, a tagged pigeon appeared on our porch, like some feathered housewarming gift. He was obviously not a city pigeon. I looked up his tag numbers and found out he came from a small town in Georgia. He could have gone anywhere, anywhere at all.
This went on all summer, this relationship between myself and a pigeon, whom I named Pig. And then one morning Pig was gone. He was here and then he was not. This is a poem about my gratitude for Pig. But I guess this poem is also about what Pig represented for me during that stressful milestone transition. I had just bought my first house with my partner. I cleaned and sold my mother’s dilapidated house in Southern Indiana and moved her in with us. My mother-in-law also moved onto the property. I was taking on major family responsibilities, rife with love and obligation.
Obligation permeates love and relationships, so much so that one usually doesn’t exist without the other. Pig came each day for his own mysterious reasons, but responsibility and obligation were not among them. And in that visitation, I found reprieve and validation.
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