Homing

When he bought the first birds
home, and left them gently cooing
in a cage in our living room
mum was livid –
‘better not make a mess on my carpet’

He held one, passive in his hefty hands,
smoothing down the feathers
with his thumb. He passed it to me like a prize.
It was light and soft as sponge cake.

He cut up a cupboard to make a loft.
Replacing the roses in the garden.
Painted dove in that grey town,
It stood out like a tanner in a sweeps ear’ole’,
as dad would say.

We ferried the birds to their palatial home,
where the sun pearled their feathers,
and through the grill
they could watch the sky
and hear the taunts of the thieving sparrows.

Our fleet grew,
and on Saturdays they raced and flew
for miles, and almost always
found their way home because
of my determined rattle of a tin of grain.

I would watch the flock
circle as they spied their palace
between the dull bricks of London.
Dad won rosettes, well, his pigeons did.
Displayed them on the living room wall.

Mum complained about them
gathering dust. More often I had her to myself
and we snuggled on the sofa watching
Corrie on the telly before bed.

While at the pigeon club in the pub
Dad spent the evening getting drunk
and softly cooing at the barmaid,
holding the bird in his hefty hands.

Before long, those homing pigeons were gone.

And so was dad.

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