Monday, April 18, 2011

St. Clement’s Church

I was walking
St. Clement’s Church
Near 20th and Arch
One beautiful spring
When out of the corner
Of my eye
I caught a glimpse
Of a dead pigeon
Nestled in a bed of Ivy
Its iridescent feathers
Still able to shimmer
In the fading
Its head still turned
To one side
As if resting
On a pillow
One wing extended
With each feather splayed out
Tail feathers too
Like an ornate Chinese fan
So peaceful and serene
Was the scene
That it reminded me of the Pieta
By Michael Angelo
Or the elongated finger of God
As painted on the ceiling
Of The Sistine Chapel
Or of some other
Iconic religious
That was meant to be displayed
For the edification and enlightenment
Of ordinary folk like me
I remained there watching
For what may
Have been an hour
I was tempted
To take a picture
If I had by some miracle
Or premonition
Had the foresight
To have brought
My camera along with me

I may even
Have said a prayer
Or two or three
But despite my prayers
The pigeon
Did not stir
Nor did it rise to its feet
To once again
Leap into the sky

When I again
Resumed my walk
Leaning from time to time
Against the Church’s gated fence
I once again
Just happened to see
A company of Hyacinths
Pink and blue and yellow
Gently swaying in the wind
Waving to me
Beckoning me closer
So that I could smell
Their exquisite perfumes
So sweet and pungent
Mixing with the warm breezes
Of the approaching dusk’s air

And I was uplifted
And revived
And I ceased to have a care
Until I once again
My fallen pigeon friend
Just a short hop and a skip
From there
Still asleep
At the garden’s other end
Still beautiful in death
Yet still no longer
Able to breathe
Or coo
Or fly

Never again
Would it ever soar
With its comrades
As pigeons love to do
The whole flock
Circling around
And around
The church’s elegant
Nor could it ever
Smell again
As I still could
The Hyacinth’s
Sacred perfumes

And that
Dear friend
As Norman Mailer
Once said
Neatly sums up
The difference
Between the living
The quick
And the dead

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011.

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