The cemetery quiet, no visitors today
save for the somber pigeon holding vigil
on the drive. Some spirit of the dead, earthbound
flight of a lost soul? A bird of common gray
and royal purple, banded on both legs—
one in white for courage, the other black
for counted losses. How many
miles from where she started, stunned
and fallen from homing into this tiny square
of ancient gravestones set far from town
in fields of drought-dried corn? But now,
the pigeon has lifted to my car window,
half-closed. Her eyes peer at the bird
mirrored in the glass; her fear a mantle
she sheds due to her great loneliness.
Even birds desire: that yearning for home
no matter where they land. Even birds,
unknowing of what they know, seek a familiar
roost—if it be a cote or a prison. And I,
unwilling to leave her here where
the chestnut is a murder of crows,
where the stippled sky echoes hawk’s cry,
where the ground is snake and feral cat,
and every corn row a coyote’s trail—
even I who crave some solitary freedom
on a course that has led me so far afield,
fold her muted wings against her body,
speak softly, and look into her orange eyes
Slip her, scrabbling, then quiet, into an emptied box.
Even I, knowing she may never find her way
back from where she came, knowing safety
is a place sometimes that is nowhere close
to home, drive out down this cobbled,
narrow lane lined with strong-armed maples
holding back the fields and the open sky.

Christina Lovin is the author of Little Fires and What We Burned for Warmth. Her work has
been generously supported by the Elizabeth George Foundation, the Kentucky Foundation
for Women and the Kentucky Arts Council (including an Al Smith Fellowship).

Editor’s Note: This poem was a semifinalist in the 2009 New Southerner Literary Contest.

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