This is the 26th poem in Valley of Blue Hope: Poems Before and After Diagnosis of Cancer. https://www.createspace.com/4598960
As a boy, I raised homing pigeons. I loved to watch them, male and female cuddle their eggs. The squabs were so hairy and clumsy with eyes that looked so bruised. When they lost their pin feathers and fledged, I love to hear the young clap over the houses with the rest of the flock.
The pigeon owner warned me
the bird was old and set in his ways
but he reminded me of Cher Ami,
the World War I carrier pigeon
whose message–“For heaven’s sake,
stop it!”– saved 200 American soldiers
from death by friendly artillery fire.
After months of holding him,
stroking the fine feathers on his head,
memorizing every black and white check
on his wings, training him to use
the coop’s trap door, I know it’s time.
I release my Cher Ami, to the iridescent sunlight,
imagining German bullets trailing after him
like a flock of sparrows, till one nearly severs
the leg with the silver message canister.
He flaps away, circling higher
in ever-widening circles and wings
along the Waimanalo coast toward Honolulu
and into my grieving heart forever. To ache there,
to cock your head longing for the upper brightness,
the darkness beyond, as I am longing and grieving,
searching and hoping, I may reach my own home alive.
Dear Friend, I know your home, not here
but elsewhere, the trap door old and familiar,
your old hen welcoming you with multitudinous
coos and deep obeisance. With a whistling of wings
and a few fierce pecks, reclaim your high strutting perch.