Something happened here.
Beneath this tree, a pigeon’s worth
of feathers lies scattered among stones.
In the dazzling desert light, six white
strong-shafted quills designed for flight
catch my eye. I bend to pluck them,
take them home. Blocks away, near
her old apartment, hawks nest. Sometimes
I pass for a view of those high branches
that leaf and lose their leaves,
for a glimpse of hawks,
for a longer walk and the long run
of memories we made. But why save
these six feathers? A pigeon became
a raptor’s meal—that’s the story
I imagine—and why commemorate
a death I only guess has happened?
A souvenir is nothing but a wish
to preserve the evanescent,
a pretense of permanence.
Take, for instance, a seventh feather
I spotted as we stood sealed, embracing
beside a train. All the colors of ash,
it had come to rest between the rails.
I warned her not to reach
beneath the wheels to pick it up,
though she hadn’t moved to leave
my arms. Soon, the train would roll
away, but for now there was no
danger. So I let that feather go
and wisely made the most of one last
chance to hold her close. Now
six feathers lie scattered on my desk:
not the pure white I detected from afar,
not the white silence of a blank page
in the face of a myriad unasked questions
and too much left to say, but white
smudged pale gray at their tips and edges.
Still I keep them, to spite their lack
of meaning and the way they take me
back to a mid-October day, a train
on a westbound track, a woman I call
love, who promised nothing, and a lone
pigeon feather, gone. Lost forever.
Marisa P. Clark is a queer writer from the South whose work has appeared in Apalachee Review, Cream City Review, Foglifter, Potomac Review, Rust + Moth, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere, with work forthcoming in Shenandoah, Nimrod, Epiphany, and Evening Street Review, among others. She was twice the winner of the Agnes Scott College Writers’ Festival Prizes (in fiction, 1996; in nonfiction, 1997), and Best American Essays 2011 recognized her creative nonfiction among its Notable Essays. She reads fiction for New England Review and makes her home in New Mexico with three parrots and two dogs.