A Pocketful of Pigeons

One wintry night, an amaz­ing artist named Jenna showed us her idea for a book, where the pages were cut into the shapes of a flock of pigeons. We all mar­velled at the beauty of such an object, and wondered about what words could go inside such a curio.
These are those words – or one ver­sion of them, that I then chanted into the micro­phone at the Phoenix on a Wed­nes­day night. You will see a dif­fer­ent ver­sion of what goes inside Jenna’s book any time you look up at the sky.



A pock­et­ful of pigeons


The pigeons that roos­ted under the eves of the great lib­rary found a book,

a blank book all poten­tial and undreamt dreams

all orphaned and aban­doned, face down they

turned it over, and cooed and coaxed it back to life.


In a mat­ter of months the book was more bird than bound volume

spoke the lan­guage of columbi­forms, knew the secrets of the skies

along­side its avian foster­lings, pecked pock­et­fuls of seed strewn over Garema’s grey ground.


The pigeon-book does not tell the pigeons how to be pigeons

the pigeons tell the book how to be

and the pigeon book, tells tales of tail­feath­ers spread taught to tame the air that is up and up and up above mount Ainslie and higher.


The pigeon book sneaks past secur­ity, squabs down to the vaults of the library,

below lake level, lest the lib­rary books’ breath­ing quicken and hasten their demise.

The pigeon book it whis­pers feath­ery secrets into the bind­ings of aus­tere old volumes of stor­ies and facts and let­ters and lore.

And inside their paper hearts, a stirring

a strain­ing and a flut­ter to feel that hint of breeze

from the air­con­di­tion­ing vent.

Pages fold into wings and spines crack as they catch the spell of flight.


In the centre of the Can­berra, paper pas­ser­ines pour forth into the light,

and the coo­ing coddle of the under eve pigeons weave among the columns before soaring,

wing­tip against paper­flap they wheel and twist so close that you can’t tell where book ends and bird begins.

And the people of can­berra can only look up

The people of Can­berra they can only stare at the skies

as their little cache of know­ledge is dis­sip­ated and evaporated

and all that was left was a few torn out pages and a feather.

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