“Pigeon Dyed Pink” by Clare Cross

Clare Cross


I too colored birds, or tried to. Mine
didn’t hatch. Every day, I peered
into the yellow incubators, hoping
to see a cracked shell, a blood spot,
a beak, something to tell me I’d have
bright chicks, like I saw at the state fair
and could bring to the science fair.
After we gave up, my father buried
the eggs out back, broke them
first to see. I was too sad to watch,
but my sister remembers a dead chick,
brilliant blue like the food coloring
I’d injected, my ten-year-old fingers
pushing the hypodermic’s plunger
after carefully poking small holes.
I wrote out a schedule for turning
the eggs. Everyone played mother hen.
My brother, who stayed up late,
turned them at night, my mother
at dawn. How I longed for those chicks,
red, blue, green. How I pictured them,
pretty and purple and soft. And then
it was over, nothing but broken shells,
dead embryos. I still made a poster
for the science fair, set out empty
incubators, talked to judges, somehow
won a first prize. My brother built
a computer and won first outstanding.
But in this year, this 1969, when everyone
knew Christiaan Barnard’s name, the boy
who sliced open two rats, moved a heart
from one chest to another, called this
a transplant, counted ten heartbeats
and said the rat lived, that boy
got his picture in the newspaper,
his two dead rats right there
on the front page.

from Poets Respond
February 21, 2023


Clare Cross: “When I saw the story about the pigeon that died (and was dyed), probably after being used for a gender-reveal party, I was appalled like everyone else. But then I remembered that, as a child, I had seen dyed baby chicks at the State Fair and for some reason, my parents agreed to let me try dying some for a science fair project. So then I started thinking about my child self, my parents, and the general disregard for animals at that science fair, which led to this poem.”

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