The mystery of the pigeons, the tranquility of the birdsong
by Andrew Taggart
How many pigeons are there? I lose count every time.
Each pigeon and every pigeon formation come, all come, as a surprise. I look and the formation has changed. Or I turn away, return, and–am I disappointed or reassured?–they have not changed. Or they have. My eye goes back to the places where they were, only my eye has to wander around before it finds, memory being imperfect and time ungenerous, and what it–that is, my eye–finds may be just off the left, to the right, or gone. I adjust my eye. Do I long to be near them, my pigeons?
Set within the tree and against the brick buildings–stucco and sepia and red–and especially when the sky is overcast as it is today, I have trouble picking them out, my pigeons. As I write, I have to turn my head to the right and up to see them, supposing they are where I left them. Will they leave me? Is this my question? Will nothing settled last? I feel sorry, or think I do, when they are gone. And, yes, when I look over and cannot immediately place them, I am saddened. Saddened or just a bit frightened. Or wistful.
I saw one, just now, flutter up, struggling, onto a low branch, the white undersides of its wings pulling it out before my eye. Do the white undersides flap solely in order to draw my eye and draw me out?
I do not know whether it is the allure of my study in tweets, for those who follow my tweets, or whether it is the mystery of life, or whether the asymmetry of the design. How jarring it all is. I do not know whether it is separation. For you look at familiar things, don’t you?, just long enough anyway, and soon you lose count. You look at a woman, a very beautiful one, then at her beautiful nape, and soon she becomes strange.
The truth is, I seem not to understand the once mine pigeons, and I do not know why. I want to understand them, at least I think I do, want to reach my hand out and find the right words in which we can both speak with each other, want to pull them closer to my window and look long and see them truly. Or do I want them to remain friends aloof, steadied solely by my gaze and fixed amid the tree? Or perhaps to sit there and cajole my eye when I turn from work? Or to be fooled a bit, played with without consequence, without harm, cause, or consequence? Could it be that their strangeness–which pains and delights me at once because their nature is not as anthropomorphic as dogs but more so than fish–sustains, long after I would like, the allure? Ars longa, in short?
All this time, I have not forgotten the birdsong hanging softly into my left ear. You may have, but I have not. The birdsong occurs always, near always, sometimes, daily anyway, around the corner from my armchair, the melody from birds unseen, unidentified, but no matter because that is of no concern to me. I seem to have no desire to know from whence the birdsong comes, only to feel the notes against my ear during the lazy afternoons of winter. Why the mystery of the pigeons and why the tranquility of the birdsong I cannot say.
What I can say: beyond my window off to the right, pigeons unsettling my eye. Beyond my window off to the left, birdsong settling my ear.