Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Fall that Follows Triptych

The Fall that Follows Triptych

How Gerald Studies the Fledging of Darkness, May 14, 1993


I.  The Fall that Follows


Pigeons fall past the window, twisting and expanding

like newspapers unwadding in the wind.  Gerald puzzles

over this, lying on his side staring up and out.  He realizes

that they plunge from nests in the eaves and do not open

their wings to fly until below his line of sight. 

Though his visitors all praise the view from his window,

all he sees from the bed is sky and a haze of smog

so thick and brown he can't tell if the sun

shines or not.  The window, too, is smudged with grease

and condensation—his breath and sweat, he guesses—

and droplets trace long winding zebra paths through the fog.

His view of the pigeons is divided in stripes

of clarity and veils.  Appropriate, that view,

he thinks, his hours striped by pain.


Today, he learned

that while his past has been growing

steadily longer, his future has shrunk to barely the blink

of an eye.  "Six weeks, maybe," the doctor said,

when he, half joking, inquired, "How long have I got, Doc?"

With no future, no space remains to enjoy the past.

He holds the morphine button in the crook of his elbow

as the pain grows toward a crescendo.  He dissociates

for a moment, watching the flame of pain expand

spread like a wildfire.  It is red and orange and yellow

and smells like gasoline and turpentine

and like the pine pitch in the trees he climbed

as a boy.  Sticky, like that, too, never letting go.


The pigeons flutter upward, back

across the window,

beating their wings wildly

near the top.  He watches

for the fall that follows, after perhaps

they feed their young.  When

he presses the morphine button,

he will fall like that, tumbling

through a morphine darkness

away from himself,

but there will be no wings, no

bread from the feet of the elderly

for his children,

only the long scrabble

back toward the light

before he has to call in desperation       

for the darkness yet again.                                


II.  A Fluid Ribbon


Wings beat at the window,

feathers graze the glass.  Up

and up they flutter.  Grandpa's eyes rise

to the pigeons, for a moment, unglazed. 

Then the happy cooing, like a cat, purring,

like a lullaby.  A smile quivers

on Grandpa's lips before he fades again.  

When he sleeps, Al crosses the room,

sits on the wide windowsill and watches               

Gerald's chest rise and fall with only

an occasional catch.  The view outside

falls away into the distant valley

and ascends to a series of ridges beyond, fades

to blue and disappears into the lambent sky. 

Al turns his back on the rolling hills

and looks up to where the pigeons gather,

on a ledge above the window.


Their droppings streak and coat the upper glass,

the wall beside it, and the ground below.

Above the whitewash, colors!  Iridescence! 

Oranges, pinks, blues and greens glow and shimmer

on the greys, tans, black and white of feathers.

A plethora of variation.  They babble and dance

on the ledge.  Then as though if on signal,

they dive from the ledge and flow through the air

like a ribbon of fluid, twisting and turning

in unison as if choreographed by his own heart.


Below, heading in from the drop-off loop, Geraldine

follows their flight with her whole body,

her arms rising and falling slightly,

as if she would join them.  "Bring bread,"

Gerald had said, "and seeds." 

Al did. Enough for all of them.


III.  It Hurts a Little


At the first grip of toes and prick of tiny talons,

Geraldine shrieks, and in a clatter of wings, the pigeons

fly.  "Shhh," whispers Aldy, inclining his head

toward Gerald in the wheelchair, wrapped in a blanket

and scarf.  "Shhh.  Your Dad wants to feed them." 

Geraldine arranges the torn bread and seeds

on her hand again, steels herself.  The same pigeon

returns, the white one with tan wings and shiny pink        

glow on it's head as if a coat of thin nail polish          

had been painted on every feather.  First the whirr          

and beat of wings, the sudden clutch of pink toes

with their sharp nails.  Then a pecking at the seeds

in her hand.  Though it hurts a little, Geraldine   

sits utterly still on the bench beside her father's wheelchair. 

Then giggles, softly.  The pigeon looks up, cocks its head

to the side and peers at her through a single eye. 

Geraldine stares back at the pigeon with an eye

of her own.  The pigeon turns its head and looks at her

with the other eye and Geraldine does the same.

When the pigeon returns to eating bread and seeds,

Geraldine laughs.  She can't help it.  The pigeon

flutters slightly, but stays.  Peck.  Peck peck.


Geraldine looks around.  Aldy has a pigeon, too,

a grey and white one with pink and  green shine on its wings.

Three black pigeons with blue shiny heads like ravens

balance on her father's bony knees, one on the right,

and two sharing seeds from his left hand.  In his eyes,

a faint smile flickers.  Geraldine smiles, too.






Mary Taitt

for jrlc and mjtc with love and longing

this line ^ and everything below the line are not part of this poem


090220-1941-1f; 090220-0203-1st combined draft

earlier separate pieces:  The Fall that Follows:(090217-1300-2a; 090216-1239-1st

Ode to the Nursing home pigeons: 090217-1520-1b; 090217-1411-1st

It hurts a little:  090220-1:412-1st complete draft; 090218 partial draft)


Note to Dawn and Classmates:  this started out as an ode to the pigeons in the voice of Aldy, second person, and morphed into something very different (as you can see and hear), but since it did actually start as an ode, I decided to bring it anyway.


studio lolo said...

Hi Mary!

No one has ever left me seven comments on one post before! Thanks for liking it so much.

I loved this poem series. I'm glad you can see the beauty of pigeons and how they can move some people. Ravens are my favorite bird. I love their mystical quality and their trickster ways.

I like the glassine envelope suggestion even though I've already stamped the envelope. I did that because I knew I had a bird stamp left over!I can eat 42 cents :)

I'll enter your name in the drawing and will alert you if you've won.
Thanks again for stopping by!

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Thanks so much, Lolo! I always love your work. I love ravens, too!!!!