Hello, and thank you for making the time to drop by. I will be sharing one of my poems each week, from my wip “Glimpses Across the Barricades” A collection of my own takes on those moments that bring about change in our lives.
Glimpses Across the Barricades.
‘The Pigeon Lady’
A Story Poem.
By Suzanne Burke.
In loving memory of ‘Noelene’.
She fed pigeons in the park opposite my home.
The same bench each day she occupied; she never seemed to roam.
There she sat in the early morn and again at end of day.
On my way to work as I hurried by, she’d smile at me and say
“Good morning dear, a lovely day for your early morning walk.”
I nodded my response; I did not make the time to talk.
I’d quickly grab a coffee from the station coffee shop
and gulp it down as I waited for my crowded train to stop.
My working days were filled with legal speak and lengthy hours.
I remained remote and untouchable inside my clever ivory tower.
My world was filled with designer clothes, and all the correct possessions,
and of course, I had my dearest friends, and our numerous bitch sessions.
My calendar was full with gallery openings and plays-
I was on the “A” list of the social must invites, where I worked hard to stay.
I surrounded myself with people whose favorite word was ‘yes’,
those cool, together, people, who never showed distress.
The seasons changed with rapid pace, the fall wind was chill.
The pigeon lady remained upon her bench, and smiled her greeting still,
A battered straw hat she always wore, upon her graying head.
I didn’t break my stride as she spoke. I hurried by instead.
The mornings grew darker, as days were met by early winter snow,
yet still she sat with her battered hat, perhaps she had nowhere else to go.
It was not my problem after all; therefore, I didn’t stop to ask
I had Christmas shopping yet to do, so I thought only of that task.
One early morning in late December, I awakened so unwell
the thought of going out to work my fevered brain dispelled.
The illness burned and left me weak and shaking in my bed,
day merged with night, as I lay with pain pounding in my head.
For three days I lay in sweat-drenched delirium, yet shook with fevers chill,
I telephoned my dearest friends for help; they were all too busy still.
By day four the weakness had me in tears of lost despair.
My doorbell rang, I answered … to find the Pigeon Lady there.
“Good morning dear,” was her surprising greeting,
she continued on, and said “I’ve made you soup but it needs heating.”
She stood there in her battered hat then gave me flowers that she bore,
she laughed, a quite delightful sound, at the expression that I wore.
“I’ve missed you dear,” was all she said, as she escorted me briskly back to bed.
I was confused, which clearly showed, pain was pounding in my head.
“Where is your linen kept?” she asked, she then changed my sweat-soaked sheets.
She raised the blinds to let the sunshine in, and then I had her soup to eat.
After the soup she explained, “Your gardener told me you were ill.”
I had no idea what to say, my eyes were closing against my will.
“Come on, young woman, off to sleep,” said she, and I gladly went.
I slept at once in my clean fresh sheets. My crying was all spent.
I awoke unsure of what I’d see, a delightful aroma filled the room;
a cheery fire awaited me, to take away the chilly gloom.
She’d left a note, which read, ‘I’ve left a meal, and tomorrow I will call.’
I had not the strength to ponder, why she had come at all.
On the morrow just on daybreak, she was there once more
Her clothing clean and tidy, yet still her battered hat she wore.
I didn’t know how to thank her for the kindness she had shown.
It was so far outside my experience, on the streets where I had grown.
“Your life has been so empty dear.” How did she understand?
“It will be all right you’ll see;” said she, as she gently touched my hand.
“What is your name, my dear?” she asked, with her sweet slow smile
“Of course I gave you your park name, it’s been bestowed on you a while.”
“My park name?” I queried. “Whatever do you mean?”
“Oh; I give everyone a name my dear!” and her eyes began to gleam.
“We have so many characters in the passing parade I see,
that I bestow on each a name that means who they are to me.”
I was not certain I would like or understand what I was about to hear.
She looked at me, and gave my hand a pat. “Why you are the ‘Lady Guinevere;’
still in search of ‘Camelot’. Be patient dear, she added, I just know it will arrive;
if you can just stop from shutting out the world in order to survive.”
How had this strange woman looked inside, and found the child that once I’d been?
I was profoundly shaken, how could she know these things others had not seen?
She smiled once more and waited, “And so what is your name?”
I grinned at her at last, and made no attempt to hide my pain.
“My name is Jennifer,” I said, how we laughed at that. ‘Guinevere’ was so correct
“Well now, Lady Jennifer.” she said, in her manner so direct
“My name is Francesca, however dear; you may call me Fran.”
We shook hands my new friend and I, and we talked as some friends can.
Three more days went by before I was well enough to work resume
Fran came by each day to check on me, she didn’t just assume
always asking if it were convenient for her again to call,
I thanked her and told her truly it was not inconvenient at all.
Day four I had risen early it was still a little dark
I made two mugs of hot, sweet, tea and joined Fran in the park
She was clearly so delighted, we enjoyed that place and time.
Then each morning thereafter, a small bench space was mine
I learned about the pigeons; their names and all their individual deeds .
They soon became accustomed to my joining in their morning feeds
Fran shared with me her park people, and a few I helped identify
There was, Mr. Baggy Pants who almost lost them as he scurried by,
and young Master Odd Sox, was color blind for sure,
I became ever more grateful, that she had knocked upon my door.
People that I worked with commented on a change in me
Mostly they seemed uncomfortable. So they just let me be.
Fran one morning said to me as another season changed
“Lady Jennifer my friend, a dinner I have arranged.”
“I’d like you to come home with me tomorrow after work”
“Come home with you?” I questioned, then, I felt a total jerk.
Luckily she laughed at me, and no offense did take
“Yes dear I have a family, and a home” she corrected my mistake.
I had mixed feelings about that evening, I was unsure what to do. I mentioned this to Fran, who said “My dear you just be you.”
Our morning ritual we shared and arranged a time to meet.
Fran’s large dog was so pleased to meet me, he knocked me off my feet.
I was welcomed as her trusted friend by her sons, all three.
Thomas was the eldest, head of the family was he.
The middle son was Jacob, so like his mother he did look.
The youngest one was Elijah who read me like a book.
All three sons proudly wore policemens’ uniforms.
Their father was killed in the line of duty, I was sadly then informed.
The time flew by so quickly, and often to their home I went
Many happy hours of shared dreams and laughter was time so gladly spent
Fran held herself so gracefully, I could not think of her as old.
I did not want to ask her age fearing she would think me bold.
Her hair was completely gray by now; and her hands would often shake.
And as the distance she would walk became difficult to make; she said no words to indicate that may have worried me
her carefree laugh, and ready smile, were all she’d let me see.
I awoke one morning as usual and prepared our cups of tea
I walked outside, then, stopped in shock; for Fran I could not see.
The pigeons were all there waiting, as it softly began to rain,
She is just late I told myself; I waited for hours in vain.
A police car stopped outside my home, Thomas looked my way;
I did not want to hear the words he said; I wanted to run away.
Our beloved Fran had gone to bed, and in her sleep had died
Thomas put his arms around me as we clung to each other and cried.
I feed pigeons in the park opposite our home
I wear Frans’ battered old straw hat; I have not far to roam.
My daughter lay safely in her pram. The passing parade goes by.
My small Francesca loves the birds, and greets them with a delighted cry
Her daddy Thomas dotes on her, and on me, his wife.
Every day I tell my Francesca more about her grandma’s life;
One morning as we sat there, a young woman strutted into view.
A “Lady Guinevere” at last! I looked up and smiled,
Fran this one’s for you.