Poem: One for the Birds

Straight out of Pliny, I grant you,
but true nonetheless:

I was in Room 30 of the National Gallery
last Wednesday, when a pigeon walked in

on finicky toes, flicking her button eyes
from sour Martha to slumped Christ to John

seeing things on the Island of Patmos.
She too saw what she wanted:

a cup of water. I loved
the solid, canvas-coloured cup,

the glisten of light on the rim,
the sliver of limpid water, symbolizing—

so I’d read—the Virgin’s purity.
The pigeon rose like a delighted child,

chivvied the water with her beak, and departed
on derisive, whistling wings.