Smoke billowed out from the window behind her. The book had told her that smoke would pacify them. She was desperate. It didn’t take long to pile up her books, but breaking up the furniture was tricky.
A siren wailed in the distance, though it was hard to judge how close it was. The sound of pigeons filled the air. The shuttering sound as they banked hard into the sky; the squalling, dissonant drone of their song; the gutters creaking under their weight. They moved around on the lawn, a grey mass seething like bait in a bucket, one deafening voice purring in her ears. – The Sound of Pigeons, Four Sleeves
A few weeks ago I was watching a small flock of pigeons in a park in Manchester. Unlike the city pigeons you normally see: milling around, fighting, and hunting for scraps, these were all sitting and standing around quite calmly, resting or preening. It made quite a change to see them so peaceful, and I couldn’t help but stop to watch them for a while. Seeing pigeons at rest goes so against my general notion of pigeons: something swarming and seething and insatiable.
I noticed that several pigeons were lying at a strange angle, and it was only after watching them a bit longer that I realised; they don’t just lower themselves to the ground when they lie down, they lower one wing and use it to cushion themselves against the ground. For some reason, I was thoroughly enchanted by it. I felt a little bad about writing such mean things about pigeons (only a very little), so I wrote this to make up for it:
They stalk, seen.
Grey workwear on top; rouged knees below.
A gabbling rabble:
and shattered, desperate wingbeats.
There’s an image to maintain.
But in the quiet, green spaces
where they rest:
on bended wing they wait.
Until another foreigner scatters crumbs
and a shout makes them rise.