Padraic Colum 1881 (County Longford) – 1972 (Enfield)

ODALISQUES, odalisques,
Treading the pavement
With feet pomegranate-stained:
We bartered for, bought you
Back in the years
Ah, then we knew you,
Odalisques, odalisques,
Treading the pavement
With feet pomegranate-stained!

Queens of the air
Aithra, lole,
Eos and Auge,
Taking new beauty
From the sun's evening brightness,
Gyring in light
As nymphs play in waters
Aithra, lole,
Eos and Auge!

Then down on our doorsteps,
Gretchen and Dora. . . .

Pigeons that have flown down from the courts behind the orchards! Pigeons that run along the beach to take sand into your crops! What contrast is between you, birds of a rare stock, and the waves that know only the buccaneer sea-gulls and the sand-marten emigrants! And what contrast is between your momentary wildness here and your graces in the courtyards beyond the orchards!

You rise up and fly out five wave lengths from the beach. And now a strange element is under you the green, tumbling, untried sea. With that half-remembered element below you, you think, maybe, of rocky breeding-places and strong mates. Bravely
you hang above the untried, alluring sea just five wave-lengths out!

You remind us of the ladies who came down to the gypsy carts that were on the beach yesterday, and swore they would take to the gypsy ways!

And now you run along by the waves, taking more grains of sand into your crops!

A wave-break startles you. You take to your wings again. Now you see the dove-cotes beyond the orchards, and you fly towards them.

And all night long you will hear the sea breaking, and you will dream, maybe, in the dove-cotes, of strong mates and rocky breeding places.

At dawn you will fly down to the beach again, run along the hard sand, take grains into your crops, and fly five wavelengths
from the beach.

The sand-martens will have left their holes, and you will see them gathered in flocks on the sand-heights, the dusky gypsies.
And you will not notice when they have departed, going without after-thoughts, going over that green, alluring element, the sea.

Pigeons that run along the beach, taking sand into your crops!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011


Padraic Colum

Padraic Colum was an Irish poet, novelist, dramatist, biographer, playwright, children's author and collector of folklore. more…

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    "Pigeons" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 26 Oct. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/28490/pigeons>.

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