“Love Poem to My Wife, with Pigeons” by James Valvis

Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2018: Editor’s Choice


The Sound of Wings by Gretchen Rockwell

Image: “The Sound of Wings” by Gretchen Rockwell. “Love Poem to My Wife, with Pigeons” was written by James Valvis for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, June 2018, and selected as the Editor’s Choice.

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James Valvis


for K

In those days I visited a local park,
hoping something would happen. Life
perhaps, or a check in the mailbox

so I could leave the apartment where
I was not living, lights turned off,
only water brown in its unflushed toilet.

This, I knew, was the life of an animal.
A bird, perhaps, a pigeon, gray and ugly,
waiting for crumbs to be tossed away.

A cold, damp bench was my favorite
like a drunk has a favorite barstool.
At first the pigeons gathered around,

waiting, wanting what I could not give,
but as soon as they realized I had nothing
they accepted me as one of their own.

All day we sat in our stale seconds,
our connection made possible mostly
by our lack of will to do anything else.

The silver winter sun was a dime
flipped in the air by some bored god,
and puddles lay about like mirrors

thrown into the gutter. City trees,
bearded with frost, bent forward like
beggars begging passersby for warmth.

But the pigeons, huddled together,
sat stoically, as if inside them beat
small hearts like white dwarf stars.

Daily no check came, and few crumbs.
What did come were joggers and taxi cabs
that sent pigeons scrambling a few feet.

What surprises us, in the end, is action,
will enough to shuffle and endure, when
there is no other ambition within you.

I too felt this odd urge to continue on,
to scurry just enough out of the way
of tragedy, to escape the tires of bikes,

stones thrown by kids, bolts of grief,
to survive long enough to make it here
to your luxurious embrace, my love.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
June 2018, Editor’s Choice


Comment from the editor, Timothy Green: “In a particularly strong month of entries, ‘Love Poem to My Wife, with Pigeons’ stood out for the authenticity of its voice. Sometimes it feels like all we want from a poem is one damn honest moment for a change, and this plainspoken narrative sings true. The length of its arc is perfect, too—just long enough to forget, by the end, that it was always a love story.”

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