I was so tired I thought the pigeon was a rat,
for a second, grey against the pebbledash
under the washing line and I nearly dropped
the pot of hot potatoes but no,
just a bird, get a grip, feed the kids
I told my furiously mashing hand while the radio
was saying that our lives will leave a skim
on the planet, like the skin of an onion only
made mostly of plastic. The day’s crop
of nappies lay in juicy packets of guilt
by the recycling and my toddlers
drowned out the news. Rain
called me out to race against the sky, the pegs,
the time it takes to topple
from a high-chair. Then
thumped down, ripped through
the pigeon and mantled her food, wings like a skirt
spread over blood. She stared straight at me.
Her eyes were black night ringed by sun.
The stillness between us
was the axis of galaxies but I
had to run back inside to spoon
mash into hungry mouths, brain
burning with the hawk-stare,
a sudden seeing of the endless hunger
we call life. I cloaked
the children in comfort and they slept,
oblivious to my unravelling, warm bodies
I could kill for. I fell asleep
on the clothes pile and woke
from dreams of wings to a dull dawn,
the feel of feathers in my mouth.
Esa Aldegheri is a Scottish-Italian writer and academic, working multilingually in migration studies. Her work has been published by Granta, Gutter, and others, and has featured on BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week. She loves trees and maps.