by Steven Riel
(in memory of Roland Flint, who embraced
an ungainly alter ego named Pigeon)
Our yoga instructor prepares us for “Pigeon” pose,
sets blocks beneath men’s pelvises.
We’ll need them.
We drape our weight over one splayed thigh at a time
— as if a bird would pin its own wings —
and then, oh, yes, the baritone groans announce
though we’re not squashing scrotums now,
male hips have no hinge.
Mindful, we’re tutored. Breathe.
Rows of torsos comply,
lowering our bulk against our knotted-ness
to free up but not dislocate — which is when
some remnant of him crash-lands against my psoas.
This must be happening, because a trickle of tears
blends with sweat swamping my towel.
I’m reminded of his slight waddle, his potbelly.
He gets up on pink feet, shakes his tail,
bobs to where my hands meet in “Prayer,” and nods.
Decades ago, in the Department’s underground day-
and-night fluorescence, where English profs’ offices
stretched in rows like concrete dovecotes,
my knock woke him.
Flushed and groggy, he cracked his cubby door,
bared his work-week: one snatched nap after another
through another spring term, another chorus
of splayed beaks shrieking need need need.
He tipped crop-milk into each brood’s
constant cry —
then flew home, where his own scribbles
peeped and scratched inside their shells
long after midnight.
Perched in his cupola, with the telescopic
lens not of a hawk but of the hunted
he charted darkness on all sides,
transcribed constellations that reach for
a svelte swan.
I lean on my shin
to stretch towards maybe
such stumbling grace.
Copyright © 2019 by Steven Riel.