Two Poems
Watching Pigeons Eat the Last Five Years

You are sitting on the beach next to the bay
when a pigeon lands near your feet.
You recognize it from back home and guess
it couldn’t handle another snowstorm
either and came down here to get away
for the rest of the winter. It used to sit
in front of your building on the sidewalk
looking more like a ball a kid lost resting
near the curb. Now it looks relaxed, cleaner
with tan feathers and has the moves
of a good-looking gull.

There were other pigeons you recognized
in a town whose name you can’t remember
but on a local map it is no more than ten
to fifteen inches north of here. They were
standing on and around a Roman statue
of a woman built in Tallahassee.
She is slender with the type of curves
found on dangerous roads, the roads you always
travel and feel at home on. She is the kind of woman
you should go after, even with a heart of concrete,
no arms could be a plus and make things easier.
Even if all the pigeons aren’t from back home
it still means they have little use for their wings
or rarely use them and depend on handouts.

The next time you passed through you brought
a bag of crumbs, all that was left of the last
five years. It was all in there: the months you spent
training so you could make the leap from Chet Baker
to Miles Davis; the night you found out locking
windows and bolting the door wasn’t safe sex;
the year your luck got better when you looked
down at the floor into a shattered mirror,
your face staring back like a Picasso portrait;
and the morning you knew a relationship was worth saving
since there could never be anything as sexy as Peggy Lee’s voice.
So after emptying the bag, you stamped your foot twice
making sure those pigeons were full on every scrap
and crumb of those five years, until each month, week
and day flew away and you’d never have to reexamine or learn
anything from them again.

Snow in San Diego

The women who walk along
Eighth Ave. have hips that move
back and forth like bells.
The new church going up
in the middle of the block
should place a few in its steeple
so when they ring every noon
it will sound like heaven.

Each morning I stop
in the diner where pigeons
sleep out front like a flock
of bocce balls the Italian guys
used to play in the park all day.

With suntan lotion on and dark
glasses, I always order the breakfast
special, look down at the sunny side up
eggs, then close my eyes to work
on a tan so when I leave even if it snows
the city feels like San Diego.

KEVIN PILKINGTON is on the writing staff at Sarah Lawrence College and his latest collection The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree was recently published by Black Lawrence Press.