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

 

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.

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