‘Pigeons’: a poem by Sarah Westcott




'Men still live who, in their youth, remember pigeons; trees 
still live who, in their youth, were shaken by a living wind. 
But a few decades hence only the oldest oaks will remember, 
and at long last only the hills will know.'
Aldo Leopold, On a Monument to the Pigeon, 1947


A collared bird is drinking;
it bows to the river,
water wets its crop.

Dreaming has always moved
in the skin of the river
the voiceless river, all throat.

We granted a river
the same rights as human -
empathy, care, compassion.

Words meet water and run
with muddy meaning,
the pigeon, light on its shoulders,

is a clean answer to the body -
space emerges around its flight.
We read narratives of loss,

remember feathered napes
dove-grey, peach and gold,
trees shaken by a living wind

the body of each bird, very private.
Wings are laced with sentiment
empathy is sweet to bear,

liquid running over feathers
small bodies of water
dying away into water -

how to fade from
the wheeling optics
would you like to see everything all at once?


Sarah Westcott

About Sarah Westcott

Sarah Westcott grew up in north Devon and has a keen interest in the natural world. Her first collection 'Slant Light' was published by Pavilion Poetry and Highly Commended in the 2017 Forward Prizes. Her pamphlet 'Inklings' was a Poetry Book Society choice. Her poems have appeared in magazines including Poetry Review, Strix and Magma, on beermats, billboards and the side of buses, and in anthologies including 'Best British Poetry'. Recent awards are the London Magazine poetry prize and the Manchester Cathedral prize. She lives in Kent and teaches poetry at City Lit in London.