Thursday 6 October 2022

Passenger Pigeon

There are wild pigeons in winter beyond number or imagination,
myself have seen three or four hours together flocks in the air
so thick that even have they shadowed the sky from us¹

Mile after mile of forest dense with the birds,
each tree creaking with hundreds of nests,
white from the droppings.
Whole trees falling and dying.

And the birds such fools, we could pluck them from the sky,
lift them from their nests. Such billions a sign
from God that this was our promised land
and they our larder.

The war that broke our land blinded us to bird-loss.
We thought only of survival as we carried on hunting
provisions for conflict starved troops,
abandoned families.

And still with the loss there were millions,
riches beyond the thought
of our younger European selves.

And we did not think.

We carried on shooting
and we did not think.

When an individual is seen gliding through the woods
and close to the observer,
it passes like a thought,
and on trying to see it again,
the eye searches in vain;

the bird is gone.²

¹ early settler in Virginia 

² naturalist, J J Audobon

I'm reposting this poem for National Poetry Day 2022, which has a theme of Environment.


Anonymous said...

One of the great natural disasters of all time. You have captured the blindness perfectly.

Mandy said...

well worth posting again

S.L. Corsua said...

An instance of either learning too late or... well, not even as of yet.

A sobering piece. Thank you for sharing it. Cheers.

desert rat said...

"We did not think" sums it up so perfectly. And even after we've destroyed so many species, we still have an amazing capacity to not think things through before barreling heedlessly forward (they also described our rivers as so thick with salmon that you could could cross a creek on their backs, and now we have fishing moratoriums).

Unknown said...

Such a sad story. Beautifully captured in your poem.

polona said...

thank you for reposting this wonderful and poignant poem.

Jo said...

Wow, Juliet, just wow.

Anonymous said...

wonderful poem but terribly sad :(

Janneke said...

Great poem but so very sad......, thank you for sharing this with us.

Magyar said...

__So often ideas, as you have so well written, are seen as 'negativisms'... yet, behind the realism... there is your care of life, to which we should all strive. Grand, Juliet! _m

Another souring aspect.
__In the last fifty years of this Earth's -total- years, the Earth's population of human beings has more than doubled. (Only 50_?)
__But one litre of liquid, will fit in a one litre container.

Sandy said...

It was the same here in Maine. I thought you were quoting Ben Ames William's Come Spring.

Bill said...

Lovely and important.

RG said...

Two planets walked into a bar.

The bartender got them drinks and then asked the sad, dour one what was the matter?

"I have Home Sapiens" the planet said.

The other planet perked up and said "Oh, I had them too, but they go away after awhile."

Pietro Brosio said...

Thanks for sharing this very fine poem.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, sad story but a wonderful poem! Happy Friday, enjoy your weekend! Happy Easter to you and your family.