Saturday, June 30, 2012

Red Feathers

The thing about pigeons is, when they get run over by motor vehicles, they tend to pop.

And not a nice dry, party balloon type pop either.

But a horrible, muffled, wet kind of pop.

I know this for a fact because last Thursday I saw it happen up close and personal right in front of me.

I was on my way home after a shitstorm of a day at work and, quite frankly, the last thing I wanted to see was a pigeon playing chicken on the main road that runs through the south part of town. But there he was (I'm assuming he was male, as females tend to have more sense). Strutting his stuff in the middle of the road. Damned stupid when nature had provided him with the means to make an instant airborne means of escape.

But no. He seemed determined to walk his way out of trouble.

I put it to you, my learned friends, that it is nigh on impossible to walk your way out of trouble when a double decker bus is turning 45 degrees and heading right on top of you at 25mph. The first wheel missed and the turn of the bus took the pigeon well underneath the undercarriage. When he emerged again into the light it was plain that the back wheel of the bus had crushed the pigeon's left wing.

The pathetic crawl-flap-crawl-flap commenced.

I felt decidedly green at this point and wanted to rush out and pick the pigeon up. Unfortunately the lights had changed and the through traffic was now starting to come the other way. Not one of them seemed intent on stopping or slowing down. And I confess a little voice in the back of my head was asking what difference any intervention I could possible make would ultimately have. Even if I got him to the vet did I really think they'd waste good money saving one pigeon out of the millions that were already lined up to take his place? The chances are they'd nod sadly and administer a lethal injection as soon as I was out of the door (electric chairs being so costly to run these days) and Mr Pigeon would be off to the incinerator. And all that would cost money too.

As it was there was no time to act anyway. The fourth car along completed the job the bus had started. I had to turn away before impact but could hear the moment of death plainly enough. When I turned back around there was a mass of mangled feathers and raw spaghetti spread all over the road. I felt sick. And I felt sad. And cross with myself for not leaping into the path of the oncoming traffic to save this poor suicidal pigeon. Ridiculous, I know.

Next day only a few feathers and a stain on the macadam remained. I'd like to say we will not see his like again but it just wouldn't be true.

To end then, I'd like to present you with a poem I wrote in my twenties (back in '92) about just this kind of pigeon centred demise. I no longer think the glib tone of the poem is at all fitting but it is all I have. Enjoy.


Oh blue plumed and portly blown pilot,
A tyre has done for you.
Popped like a paper bag obese with
Breath between a clap sandwich.

Macabre children, passing, coo for
You, enquire after your
Two-dimensional demise, your brave
Unbirdlike stand against a
Post office van.

Stubborn pigeon,
If God had meant you to
Strut the road's white hyphens a gunless
Gunfighter, he would have cursed
You human and alcoholic!

You should have known: the mail
Always gets through. You're a sober sight
Now, a sheriff’s badge on a
Black macadam breast, a toe level
Monument to avian
Derring-do or die.

Chiselled by chance
Yet as if by a maestro.
You're almost symmetrical, arranged
Like a vain martyr. Could
Your corpse have been beautified by hand?
Havoc has no such aesthetics.

For a humble pot of a bird, a
Miscalculation of
Strategy has left you ready made
For the Tate; a model of
Impressionism, a
Dis-assemblage on asphalt.

Pop art.



libby said...

Yep...there is a pop....and feathers...and a smell......eeeeegh.

Steve said...

Libby: I have to say I didn't get close enough to take the smell test.

Gorilla Bananas said...

Well, that's not a bad poem by any means, even if you were picking at a corpse like a vulture. I like the references to the American Western: were you a fan of Bonanza or The High Chaparral? I would have cast you as Hopalong Cassidy's Limey sidekick.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: The Wild Bunch would have been my Western of choice followed by True Grit and The Big Country. I daresay I would have been somebody's sidekick in any of those.

Unknown said...

Oh Steve, how dreary a story! Makes you feel for the poor pigeon! And you of course for the experience! x

Steve said...

Hannah: it was certainly a non-great end to a non-great day.

Being Me said...

Won't somebody think of the pigeo.... oh. You have.

I almost gave myself whiplash today braking hard to avoid hitting a magpie who ran-jumped across my car's path and I thought the same thing: "Why run when you can fly?" Bloody idjit birds. But I still never want to hit them.

Steve said...

Being Me: you are the kind of driver I like. The kind who would have swerved to avoid me should I have leapt out into the road to shield the pigeon from harm with my own frail body. Please drive around Leamington Spa forthwith.

Being Me said...

No, you mean I'm the kind of driver you DON'T like. I am a danger. I'm a swerver. I shouldn't be on the roads avoiding innocent (potential) roadkill like pigeons. Or Steves.

Expat mum said...

I'm glad someone finished the job, poor thing. I saw one the other day and its whole back end was squashed; it kept trying to get up, or at least its head kept straining forward. I still see the image in my head!
nice poem BTW.

Steve said...

Being Me: as long as you avoid me I don't care about the rest. It's a question of priority.

Expat mum: euw! Roadkill is not pretty. Especially when it's road-not-quite-killed.

Rol said...

Louise made me stop the car the other night so she could shepherd a hedgehog across the road to prevent it getting squished by some less vigilant driver. It wouldn't go, so she had to pick it up. Then she complained about how prickly it was. Bloody ungrateful hedgepig!

Steve said...

Rol: they have fleas as well, you know. That aside you and Louise are my kind of people and I salute your nature loving efforts to keep this planet healthily bio-diverse.

Trish said...

Blimey, you're good at poetry! 'Popped like a paper bag obese with breath between a clap sandwich' - love that.

Steve said...

Trish: flattery will get you everywhere. Thank you!

Suburbia said...

Do you know? I really wish I didn't know they popped!

Between Me and You said...

If it'd been a wood pigeon, my Grandmother would have popped it into a pot and made a stew from it....yummy!I'm rather averse to pigeons at the mo.....they're eating my home-grown veg plants and making a real mess of my washing when they sit in the tree above the line and cascade their filth downwards and also my car is under attack from their disgusting droppings too. Sorry if that seems rather militant under the circumstances but I'm descended from Vikings....what do you expect?! Have a good weekend, Sunny Jim :)

Steve said...

Suburbia: if you catch them right they tend to squish as well.

Nana Go-Go: well, if it's any consolation there is a pigeon's worth less guano on your car tonight. *sniff*

Katriina said...

In the Helsinki city centre once I saw a squirrel run under a tram. The sound, as for your poor pop art pigeon, was hideous. Its back legs were crushed and the horrible thing was that, briefly, it was still alive and trying to run away before it expired. I felt absolutely awful for its pain & terror and for being unable to save it.

The Sagittarian said...

This post remineded me that awhile ago now I was driving along and across the road was a duck, flapping about and tugging on something which as I got closer turned out to be another duck which had obviously been clipped by a car too; I assume the duck's partner was the one trying to drag him/her to the safety of the river. All these cars were slwoing down and a couple stopped and set off after the ducks...the lights changed and I have no idea what happened. :-)

TimeWarden said...

I've got a damned magpie keeps banging its head on my bedroom window, early in the morning... any suggestions? I didn't know I was so popular with the birds!

Steve said...

Katriina: my only hope is that the shock releases natural painkillers into their systems so that they don't feel any pain before they cark it.

Amanda: I would hope, being ducks, that they were taken to a vet and treated (if possible). Sadly pigeons are pretty well seen as flying vermin and no one much cares if there is an unofficial "cull by road traffic accident".

TimeWarden: he must be busting for the loo. Let him in and you may find you both get some peace.

Keith said...

I have seen this too. It was a sight that will ever leave my mind. The bewilderment on the pidgeon's face as it tried to work out what was happening just before it went pop !

John Going Gently said...

oh dear.... generally because their spacial awareness is so acute, these birds tend to have the ability to escape most man made threats...
they always seem to leave flying away right at the very last minute dont they?
in my experience frogs make for a bigger "popping" sound when you stand on them without shoes on!

Steve said...

Keith: the one I saw was giving me "for God's sake, help me" eyes. They are hard to forget.

John: nooooo! I think I'm gonna... eeuuurgh!