First Flight

First Flight


This is the 26th poem in Valley of Blue Hope: Poems Before and After Diagnosis of Cancer.


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.


First Flight


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.





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