On a carrier pigeon found dead in a chimney
Time has done its dissections, spread
the jigsaw on the kitchen table.
Some wing bones, hollow radius and carpus,
a fretwork of struts and trusses. Interlocking
ribs around an unsnapped wishbone.
An empty skull, chalky with age, and a tiny
red capsule concealing a cigarette-paper of code:
KLDTS, FQIRU, AOAKN, JRZCQ.
These are the pencilled clues to the pigeon’s lost brains,
how it was tuned to the earth’s magnetic field,
its beak a fixed compass point,
or an unmetalled sextant,
charting the gunfire, rising Verey lights, the parachute flares.
How it sensed sparrowhawks banking
like Messerschmitts, coming up fast;
how it dropped like a stone
and smashed into the treetops,
shaking loose the coordinates of home.
(an earlier version of this poem was published in Be The First To Like This: New Scottish Poetry, Vagabond Voices, Glasgow, 2014, edited by Colin Waters).
Samuel Tongue has published poems in, among other places, Magma, Northwords Now, Gutter and Cordite (Aus.). He held the Callan Gordon Award as part of the 2013 Scottish Book Trust’s New Writers Awards and is featured in Be The First to Like This: New Scottish Poetry (2014). He is poetry editor at the Glasgow Review of Books and lectures in Religion, Literature, and Culture at the University of Glasgow. He tweets at @SamuelTongue