[A prose poem by Heather L Kelly]
The middle of winter, no mother, she cries for food, she cries for comfort. The plush stuffed dragon with pink wings in her enclosure to calm her is cute but … not interacting with her, not responding. Little peeps, loud peeps. She is calling for food, for love, for attention. She is a baby. Bird. She doesn’t know she was born a species that people call names like rat – another who is intelligent, affectionate, misunderstood. She doesn’t know what happened to her mother. Or maybe she does, and has nightmares. Where are her brothers and sisters. She calls out, loud peeps, I am here! I am here! Here! Here! Someone please feed me! Someone! I’m hungry! I am a baby and I am here in the strange place and I can’t get my own food. She calls out, someone hear me! Feed me! Hear me! All of the adult pigeons, in separate cages lined up along the counter, hear her. We humans, hear her, down the hall. The other pigeons hear her. None are her mother, the other pigeons can’t help her. They are isolated, they are there to heal from some other trauma. They are city birds, more likely to be burned from hot cooking oil in an alley than in a forest fire. These are city birds, our neighbours, our local babies, this baby. This mid-winter baby calls out, loud peeps. She calls out for food, she calls out for attention. A squab, rock dove, a mess of baby fuzz on her head. Not yet the iridescent plumes of her elders. Alert eyes, flappy flappy flappy fear when I come too near. To cuddle her would be terrifying and dangerous for her. To tell her everything will be ok would be untrue. But to love her, and feed her, is something we can do.