Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Pigeon That Laughed At Hemingway

Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and is said to be the highest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai “Ngaje Ngai,” the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a pigeon. No one has explained what the pigeon was seeking at that altitude.

That of course is not the epigraph
Hemingway wrote for
The Snows of Kilimanjaro.”
In Hemingway’s version, it is the carcass of a leopard.

A pigeon isn’t a carnivore,
it doesn’t run fast and kill gazelles.

A pigeon isn’t solitary,
it doesn’t sit on a branch at night
watching the savannah, eyes glowing
in light from the Moon or just the stars.

A pigeon isn’t a distant thing,
it doesn’t live here only in zoos
where a synthetic environment
pretends to be someplace far away.

A pigeon isn’t literary,
it doesn’t flesh-out a metaphor
of a dying writer bickering
with Helen, a woman photographed
by Town and Country though they never
featured her breasts in their photo-spreads.

A pigeon isn’t love found and lost,
it doesn’t embrace, swoon, kiss or slap,
it isn’t decorated, fake, rich,
tough, martyred, sexy, drunk, impotent,
nostalgic, cynical or remote,
and pigeons usually don’t sit
in front of a typewriter bleeding
or typing or not typing at all.

A pigeon isn’t skillful with words,
it doesn’t craft thoughts into phrases
people repeat over drinks in bars,
but sometimes when a pigeon makes sounds
its coo-cooing vocalizations
could be mistaken for soft laughter.

A pigeon isn’t a carnivore,
it doesn’t run fast and kill gazelles,
but sometimes it sounds like it’s laughing
so Hemingway went with a leopard.

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