“Artifacts of Our Affection” By Amber West (2014)

Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize, Second Place (2014)

When I notice mold in my toothbrush mug
I remember the pigeons
roosting in the airshaft:
their toilet, their nest, our bedroom view
dusk and dawn

Monogamous, amorous, pigeons are known for their soft cooing calls

Once I had
three mugs. Gold-trimmed.
Blond carousel ponies
painted on each side. A gift from your parents
our last Christmas. I thanked them
politely, might’ve even cooed

Slaughtered indiscriminately, the passenger pigeon became extinct
in 1914

One shattered in the sink.
I sold another on the sidewalk. The last survives
demoted: bathroom workhorse

Servants and slaves often saw no other meat. Pigeons in your
dreams suggest

You left the photo I gave you
in the emptied dresser:
us against the wind on Golden Gate Bridge

you are taking blame for the actions of others, or may express
a desire to return home

but you took the bread maker,
the banjo engraved with a golden eagle

Once used for carrying messages, pigeons represent
gossip or news. It is thought they may navigate by the sun

I take down the cloth paintings
we bought in India. Pigeon
this message to the moon:

There is no true scientific difference

in the afterglow shuffle,
bedroom to kitchen,

between a pigeon and

your Valentine bathrobe remains
useful –

a dove

releasing
each man it embraces

This poem first appeared in the 2014 edition of LRR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *