Tag Archives: birds

Twelve Springs/Last Songs for a Paralyzed Pigeon

Twelve Springs/Last Songs for a Paralyzed Pigeon

            (For Cleo)

 

The state of the future is mind—

all the beautiful things at peace.

 

 1.

Glassless world.  Primacy of sky.

 

2. 

Gone light.  A bird close to death

almost weightless in the hand.  Breath,

air, spirit, all one word in Aramaic: wind

gone in, so they can start the inward flight.

 

 3.

Steel, mint, rose.  Fallen to a sidestreet

where I would have to find her.  God’s mind.

Eyes half-closed

at the mystery of human song,

the mystery of why

I’d sing for her at all.

 

 4.

Twelve springs.  One long afternoon

waiting in my hand.  My songs

just air, just for her, in

and out of tune.  At midnight

it was done.  The inward flight:  all wind,

no horizon.

 

 5.

Bring me back a sprig, my steadfast dove,

let it show me that it’s true, that there’s

a place for you, space in God’s hand,

pretty wings to cut the air.

That you knew about the love.

 

 6.

We are all birds dreaming, hungry

at the hour of sleep.

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More on the “Symbolism” (and Downright Cruelty) of Dove-Release, Pigeon-Racing, Etc.

I’ve written a number of posts here about the careless cruelty involved in the “sport” of pigeon-racing, and in the release of white doves or pigeons to commemorate a “special occasion.”  Here’s another example of what happens to those beautiful and innocent “symbols”–in this case, right after they were released by the Pope.  The birds who were attacked were able, in this case, to escape the grips of the crow and the gull, but, as the article says, “Their ultimate fate is unknown.”

http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/27/angry-birds-popes-peace-doves-attacked/?hpt=hp_c3

Please find other ways to symbolize love and peace at your wedding or other occasion. Whether trained or not, pigeon or dove, released birds are subject to all kinds of danger and suffering–attacks by other birds, starvation, dehydration, drowning, cruel treatment by people who may take advantage of their docile natures, etc.  I would not be able to sleep on my wedding night knowing that I’d exposed fragile and innocent birds to such things, regardless of what any “professional dove releaser” told me.  Sending a creature out into harm’s way says nothing to me about love or peace–just the opposite, in fact.

And Back To the Book

Perhaps it’s time to post another excerpt from Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, here, if only to get myself and the blog back on track.  And no–of course it’s not a coincidence that this particular excerpt is to some extent about birds (there are, actually, quite a few references to birds in the book).

It’s actually a complete, albeit short, chapter, entitled “Permission.”  Those of you who have cared for terminally ill people (or who have read Kubler-Ross’ On Death and Dying) will probably recognize this stage of things, and the painful dilemma it entails:

PERMISSION

One of my blog posts, written many years later, was this:

Every so often I find a sick or dying bird on a sidewalk somewhere.  When they’re in that state, too weak or tired to be afraid of me, it’s easy to pick them up and take them home.  Very often they’ll look up into my eyes for a moment as if they’re trying to gauge what my intentions might be, and as if they’re saying, Do whatever you’re going to do; I’ve given up.

Every so often I can save one.  More often, it’s too late, and all I can do is hold the bird in my hands to keep it warm until it dies.  It will doze in my hands for hours, occasionally waking with a start, trying, it seems, to look as if there’s nothing wrong with it, trying to convince both of us that it’s fine.  Gradually, though, its eyes will close again.

There have been times when I thought that I prolonged a bird’s life beyond the point where it should have ended.  Thinking that I was giving comfort, I may have, in fact, made it suffer more.

I couldn’t imagine letting go, but I know that at one point I forced myself to tell David that it was O.K.—that he could stop fighting, that I’d understand.  I remember saying it as we sat together on the futon one night.  David didn’t answer; it was nearly impossible for him to speak at all by then.  But something did change after that.  He seemed relieved, somehow, and he started to let go of life.  Telling him that was one of the things that I did right back then. 

Maybe This Will Help (Me)

Having read another infuriating post today on the pigeon website I mentioned in a few posts a few days ago (this time about someone who found yet another lost racing pigeon, and was advised to “withhold food for a day”, take him ten miles away, and then release him to try–on a very empty stomach, and apparently with hundreds of miles to travel–to find his way home again), I have been struggling with myself to just leave it alone this time.  Clearly I’m not going to change anyone’s views on the subject, and I’m just too thin-skinned to take the abuse I got the last time again (clearly the “best defense is a good offense” rule is useful when one is trying to defend the indefensible).

So, instead, I’m going to post an article I wrote years ago about animal abuse here.  It was originally published in the now-defunct ASPCA Animal Watch, and subsequently in Big Apple Parent.  It’s not about pigeon-racing or “dove release”, but perhaps it touches on the same kind of thinking to some extent.  Posting it here will be the internet equivalent of sitting on my hands or biting my tongue to keep myself out of trouble.  (And yes, this blog IS about my book, Holding Breath: A Memoir of AIDS’ Wildfire Days, and I do seem to be posting quite a few off-topic posts these days.  On the other hand, there is a thread running through the posts, I think, that binds them together.  As I’ve always been sickened by arrogance and ignorance about, and cruelty toward, the homeless, people with AIDS, people with substance abuse problems, etc., I am also sickened by the arrogant sense that as human beings we have “dominion” over other creatures, and therefore have the right to subject them to suffering and death for profit, entertainment, or just because we can.  Either way, to put it bluntly, it’s bullshit.)

Thank you for your continued patience with my self-righteous rants.  I will get back to my regularly scheduled posts about the book anon.

Here’s the article, which is entitled “Teach Your Children”:

http://zeroandback.blogspot.com/2008/01/teach-your-children.html

The “Ethics” of Pigeon-Racing and “Dove” Release–Follow-Up

I made a serious mistake in thinking that I could post the previous post about pigeon-racing and dove-release on the site I recommended in it (Pigeon-Talk), and that people might simply give the matter some more thought.  What I didn’t understand is that the majority (or at least the most vocal members) of the site either participates in those activities, or condones them. (Several members, however, either privately or in public posts told me that they feel the same way I do about it, or that pigeon-racing gives other people who simply keep pigeons without putting them in harm’s way a bad name.  Now I understand why they were so reluctant to mention that on the site.)

I was accused of being “cruel” to birds myself,  and told that my post was “melodramatic bull-crap”. One member suggested that I “spew” to PETA about my utterly absurd suggestion that it might be cruel to send domesticated birds hundreds of miles away and simply hope that they make it back without getting lost, getting attacked or killed by predators, starving, dying of exhaustion, etc.  Then the thread was closed because of the “manner I used to express my opinion.”

Just now I looked up how much the prizes for pigeon-racing can be.  I’d been thinking that they were probably quite small, if anything. However, it seems that the owners of “winning” (not missing or dead) pigeons can potentially win thousands of dollars.  I think I now understand the source of all the vitriol against me a little better…

Here’s MY bottom line–you can tell me all you want about how much you “care about” and even “love” your birds. But if you know that you’re potentially putting them in danger of real suffering, and possibly death, by sending them out to race (or to “celebrate” an occasion), and yet you do it anyway, I find it a little hard to believe you.  If I love someone or something (or even if I don’t), I’d rather tear my eyes out than put him or her in harm’s way.

Here’s the thread, in case you’re interested in reading about the reactions people had to my post:

http://www.pigeons.biz/forums/f5/on-the-ethics-of-returning-a-banded-bird-to-his-her-owner-70864.html 

Watching the racing pigeon I found a few days ago die a horrible death made me incredibly sad.  The fact that these “bird lovers” refuse to even entertain the idea that racing and release are cruel ways to make money only makes it that much worse.

Oh, and please pardon my “melodramatic bull-crap.”  That’s just how I roll, I guess… 

Another O.T. Bird Post

In July, I posted this, which is about the remains of some white doves or pigeons I found, and about the practice of “dove releases” for “special occasions”:

https://holdingbreathmemoir.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/o-t-releasing-doves-to-die/

Something happened recently that made me change my thinking on the practice, and also got me thinking about the similar practice of racing pigeons.  The short version–regardless of whether the “dove” releasers are licensed and professional–is that there is no such thing as “ethical” dove release, or pigeon-racing.  It’s a cruel way to make a profit, and, as a “sport”, pigeon-racing is unjustifiable.

Here’s what happened to make me feel this way:  A couple of days ago I took my dog out for a walk, and we came across a beautiful little white pigeon with a band on her leg.  She was obviously sick, and unable to fly, so (as I’ve done so many times in the past) I took her in.  I put her in a cage I had in a quiet room so that my dog wouldn’t bother her, and hand-fed her some water (she drank as if she hadn’t had any in days), and left some seed for her, although she didn’t look as if she was going to be able to get anything down.  Her breast-bone was sticking out–a sure sign that she was sick and starving.

I called around and, using the information on her band, found out that her “owner” owns a coop about 30 or 40 miles away, and that he races pigeons.  I was hoping that the bird would recover, and I knew damn well that if she did there was no way I was going to send her back, only to possibly be killed (although I can’t confirm it, I’ve read that returned racing pigeons sometimes simply get their necks broken by their owners because they can’t “perform”), or sent out into the dangerous wild again.  I would have given her a safe home.

But I was too late–a couple of hours after I took her in, I found her rolling on the floor in agony, her head twisting around.  Her beautiful gray eyes seemed to be pleading with me for help, but all I could do was pray that the suffering would stop, and tell her that I loved her and that I was sorry.  It was horrible.  And then she died. I found her on her back, with her wings spread out on either side.

Earlier in the day, when I went to a wonderful site where people can go to get advice on caring for pigeons and other birds, a member who does both dove releases AND pigeon races told me that if the bird recovered, the “ethical” thing to do would be to return her to the owner.  The more I thought about that, the angrier I got (and I was already pretty angry).  A person who sends DOMESTICATED birds out into the wild, sometimes very long distances from home, telling me that NOT sending her back would be “unethical”?  Really?  I responded that if I had come across a young child who had been injured because his parents thought it was OK to let him just wander the streets alone, I wouldn’t be bringing him back to his parents–I’d call Child Protective Services.  ((I subsequently learned that “my” bird’s owner had sent her 80 miles away, and that she was less than a year old, and that he’d recently lost six birds–who, he assured me, would all “come straggling back”–although the one I’d found clearly would NOT.)

I did call the owner that night, after the pigeon had died.  When I told him what happened, he said, “Oh, that’s too bad.  But it’s OK–I have lots of other birds.”  I responded that it was NOT “OK” with me, but he didn’t seem to get it.  The bird was just a commodity–a piece of equipment for the “sport” he entertains himself with.

Dove (or pigeon) release is not a “beautiful symbol of peace and whatever”–whether the birds are trained homing pigeons or not, there are still too many dangers out there.  A lost bird can spend days suffering because it doesn’t know how to get food and water in the wild–and even trained pigeons get lost.  And, for the same reasons, pigeon-racing is not a “sport.” The death of the little bird I found was not a fluke–she was the third casualty I’ve come across in less than three months, and there are many, many others (if you look at the “I Found a Pigeon or Dove” forum on the site to which I’m about to give you the link, you’ll get a better sense of how often it happens).

If you come across a pigeon, dove, or any other bird that is sick or injured–whether the bird is banded or not–please catch it and put it into a safe container (like a small dog crate or box) and go here to get advice on how to help it:

http://www.pigeons.biz/forums/f20/

And, even if you find the bird’s owner (and even if he or she offers to pick it up or have it shipped “home”), I suggest that you don’t return the bird.  If you can keep it, do so (they’re amazingly smart and affectionate creatures).  If not, the people on the site can help you find a home for it.  THAT’S the ethical thing to do.  If you’d seen, and held, the bird I’d found, you’d understand.

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