Dirty Birds


A single pigeon is not so bad, and as the flock circles through the pea and seed processing plant’s silos they add color to the flat contrivances of galvanized metal and concrete. They are a motion of gray and white against the sky, with just a hint of green, blue, or pink hidden in their feathers. In Three Forks and Hog Heaven, a long time ago, there were no pigeons.

There is a voice that comes out of big city parks and squares. It is even quietly echoed by those who sit upon the benches feeding the birds bread crumbs out of little paper sacks.

“Yes,” with a soft whisper, “but they’re such dirty birds.”

It is repeated over the flocks of ducks by the pond and under the gulls down by the wharf.

“They’re such dirty birds.”

Three Forks and Hog Heaven have new names: and pigeons. On the old railroad trestle by which the herons once flew, you can see droppings. On the iron rails put in to cart away the wheat, peas, and lentils: droppings, and in the unused basalt church, its stained-glass windows broken by late night passersby forcing the use of plywood to preserve what is left: roosts and guano.

There are new creatures here. Red tailed squirrels that nest in trees planted as shade and wind-breaks a hundred years ago. As the story goes, someone brought in six. Now the power-lines are squirrel runs, shielded from the voltage that passes between homes: the homes which have cats sunning themselves on concrete steps. They come down for nuts and play in the trees with the occasional bang of a blown transformer: blackout. The towns have a bypass to Lewiston now, and a loop around the city center North to Coeur d’Alene. New malls spring up, gas stations, and restaurants to feed the people in them. The hills between towns are plowed if they are not too steep. The gravel-quarries nibble at the basalt fissure flow formations to darken the snow on roads when it falls.

The starlings were bad for a time around the sewage treatment plant. There was talk of poison. The flocks were gone for a time. They returned after a time. The shrieks as they fly are sometimes drowned out by the crowds in the stadiums and coliseums thunder at sporting events and concerts, one loud voice of a crowd.

Some of the birds between towns hunt alone or in pairs . . . the hawks, owls, falcons, and kestrels. Even ravens only gather at odd times. They nest in pairs, not crowds. Perhaps it is because they need more space, more land to produce food for a single pair. There are only so many mice for the larder, only so many rabbits for the snare. And when their bowels move, their piles of hair, bone, and skin are few and far between. Unlike the slaughterhouse, and the herd animal . . . the stink is not quite so great.

A single person is not so bad.


taken from “Some Notes on 21st Century Sorcery”.

About johnsmithiiimxiii

John Smith, IIMXIII is the avatar of an award winning poet, artist, etc. who still lives in the Palouse country of the Pacific NW. He has not received much notice with his prose . . . but as his avatar, I hope that he keeps plugging along.

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