One nice thing about Ben’s work on the Real Pigeons series (Book 4 is out now) is that he and I now notice pigeons much more than we used to. There are lots of different pigeons in America, too – the little brown torcazas, with their feathers like scales, the big purple picazuros that stride around unruffled, like peacocks, the tiny huilotas that whirl up from the ground like fallen leaves. This is my translation of José Manuel Arango’s poem “Habits of the Pigeons”. Arango was a Colombian poet who lived most of his life in Medellin: reading this poem, I picture very clearly the winding paths through the park on Cerro Nutibara. I love how closely he observes the birds’ behaviour, and the tone he strikes, affectionate and a little mocking.

1

From her loft – the dull hut
pinned
in the fork of the pisquín’s
trunk – the pigeon
lets herself fall to the
gravel below.

(A city bird, the pigeon:
its blue egg
has a bloody chick
tiny in the yolk.)

2

It rained hard last night.
The park’s curving paths
are muddy
and on the pavement, between the plots,
there are yellow leaves,
rotten.

3

The cock lets out
a furious murmur
and is going to perch
on the streetlight’s cross.

4

A moment before he
balances with his tail, shaking it,
with his wings. And their flap
for a moment erases him:
that cold, white vortex.

Then he is
suddenly still.

5

The hen looks at me
with her yellow eye.
The sun places
on her neck
a sparkling beam
of purple reflections.

She looks at me
with her yellow eye.

6

Now she drinks water
from the bog. The cock
nearby
pokes at a pile
of dirt.

Now
she de-fleas under her wings,
looks for grasshoppers
in the grass.

(That way of walking,
with a clumsy step,
from one side to the other.
Pecking the air.)

7

On the soft ground,
beside the bog, there remains
like a broken star
the print of her
red foot.

8

She flew.
The tip of the branch
shudders

and becomes a reflection,
a living mercury of sun and shadow,
over the wet ground.

(In the mauve and transparent
gloom, beneath
the tender leaf,

there is, for her, the worm
that eats
the fruit.)

9

Now they fly
together. The flight
straight and low. I hear

the murmuring flap, the smack
of wings on the air.

What a fuss. They stop
on the ledge of the tower.

***

Y el poem original en español:

1

Desde el palomar – la caseta
desteñida, clavada
en la horqueta del tronco
del pisquín – la paloma
se deja caer a la era de grava.

(Pájaro de ciudad la paloma:
su huevo azul
tiene un pichón de sangre
diminuto en la yema.)

2

Llovió duro anoche.
Los senderos curvos del parque
están fangosos
y en el pavimento, entre las eras,
hay hojas amarillas,
podridas.

3

El palomo suelta
un arrullo furioso
y va a posarse
en la cruceta del farol.

4

Un punto antes se hace
equilibrio con la cola, agitándola,
con las alas. Y el aleteo
por un instante lo borra:
ese vórtice blanco, frío.

Luego se queda
Inmóvil de pronto.

5

La paloma me mira
con su ojo amarillo.
El sol le pone
en el cuello
un haz reverberante
de reflejos cárdenos.

Ella me mira
con su ojo amarillo.

6Ahora bebe agua
del pantano. El palomo
cerca
escarba en un montón
de tierra.

Ahora
se espulga debajo del ala,
busca saltamontes
entre la hierba.

(Ese modo de andar,
con paso torpe, venciéndose
a un lado y a otro.
Picoteando el aire.)

7

Sobre la tierra blanda,
junto al pantano, queda
como una estrella trunca
la huella de su pata
roja.

8

Voló.
La punta de la rama
retiembla

y un reflejo, un azogue vivo
de sol y sombra, se hace
sobre el piso mojado.

(En la penumbra malva
y transparente, bajo
la hoja tierna,

está, para ella, el gusano
que roe
la fruta.)

9

Ya vuelan en
bandada. El vuelo
recto, rasante. Oigo

el aleteo rumoroso, el azote
de alas en el aire.

Qué alharaca. Se paran
en la cornisa de la torre.