In the stark reflection of his blue eyes,
bluer than the cloud filled sky (no clouds – even the cataracts are gone)
which opens out above his grave
there are pigeons.
Pigeons emerging from their cardboard box
a surprise gift of joy and youth
filling the otherwise world-weary air
from one grandparent to the other
from one village to the next
their homing instinct
so different from mine
I stood there, a child frozen in time
watching them disappear.
He watched them arrive
as he knew they would
his faithful pigeons
my message on their legs
safe in their coops on the roof
he took one out, stroked its wing muscles
cooing his deepest secrets
those inarticulate dreams English couldn’t handle
the broken heart, that eventually stopped his own flight.
In his sightless eyes
the birds still fly
a freedom he knew, instinctively
even when utterly grounded
a man of the sky
returning always to his home.
"Grandpa's Birds" is reprinted from the book Imagining the Future: Ruminations on Fathers and Other Masculine Apparations, written in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson. It forms part of our celebration series. The poem also won the Lake Macquarie Literary Awards local poet prize.