Friday, December 13, 2013

Poem: Subway Pigeons

Self Portrait, Walking at Night. Jerry the Bird, 1975.

The one winter night I was going back and forth across town
I'd been staying in this dump of an apartment
it was a flophouse, really,
some burned out hippies had made the place open to
whoever wanted to come around and drink wine or smoke pot
or just needed a place indoors to crash

but nothing lasts

and eventually the hippies and the drunks and the burnouts all got the boot
and we all ended up out on the street
scratching our asses and wondering where to go next.

I knew a few people around town
and I had a pocket full of change from playing cards
with the hippies and the burnouts and the winos
so I made phone calls
and rode the trains
and walked
and went all around the city
seeing if anyone had a couch
or even a space on the goddamn floor where a bird could sleep for a few nights.

Back and forth across the city a few times
and I hate riding the trains because people stare and get weird around me
some old bastard once shooed me with a rolled up newspaper
and I said hey man, what's your problem
and he said people only
and I said the man took my fare and didn't say anything so get lost

but it was getting late and I was stuck with nowhere to go
and it was getting cold

and I was standing around in a station
wondering if I should walk up to street level
(there was nothing up there for me)
or should I go back down and get back on the trains
(there was nowhere to go)

near the staircase that led up to the street was a big heater
blowing warm air into the station
but it wasn't warm to stand under it because of the wind from the stairs

but sitting on top of the heater is a half-dozen pigeons
and there are a few walking in little circles under the heater
and they are taking turns

one of them walking around in circles will fly up
and bump the end of the line
and the one at the other end will get bumped off
and they all get moved down a little bit
and so they all get their turn

but they all seem to look at me and say
don't even think about it you big bastard
you're you and we're us
and you're not one of us
so don't try to play bird
you're wearing a coat
you're playing human
you've crossed the line
and you're on their side now
go play with your human friends
and don't try to play bird anymore

you're out of the goddamn club.

And I stand and watch them trade places for a while

and I bum a cigarette off an old fellow

and I walk back up to the street to walk nowhere

and goddamn is it cold out here tonight.

Jerry the Bird, 1975.

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