Sarah Rose Nordgren: Breeders

Down House, home of the Darwin family

My father and I love pigeons because
of the many ways they might go wrong:
No appetite, watery droppings, air
in the crop, swollen eyes, or unable to eat corn.
Some have tail feather cases that don’t open.
Last year we had baby fantails whose crops
became filled with a white substance
and who died unless we squeezed them out.
And now this two-week-old roller bird won’t
hold his head upright. He walks
backward with his eyes partly closed, but
he eats well and his droppings are fine.
My baby brother is like that – no tension
in the muscles. When father orders
the ten of us by height on the low bench,
no two of us have the same complaint
and we are soft as birds. Some of us are pretty,
some limp, some have lighter hair,
but we all love to be pitied and nursed.
Each of us is an experiment, but I’m
my parents’ favorite because my sickness
hasn’t a name. Most of us will live past ten,
and the others buried under mounds
in prim boxes. Lined up like this
we eye each other, and our eyes
link together in a light blue chain.

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