The Underwings of War

National Pigeon Association, England, 1940

Notch.
Web.
And then,
down the shaft,
lesser wing coverts
and marginal coverts, and soft,
greater underwing coverts — although never as great
as greater under-primary
coverts, gray-coated
and down-plumped,
trailing
what
might
reveal
a pattern
just over the down
that might support a secrecy.
Launched from double-decker buses, or attic windows,
or the dark roofs at Bletchley Park,
the lesser pigeons,
always first
to find
the
fray,
sport black
metallic
canisters strapped to
matted lapel feathers. And tucked
inside, like Russian dolls, a cipher’s hollow chambers —
down and down, a Fibonacci
spiral, a paper
nautilus
of words
and
codes
and keys
that shift with
each decipherment.
The bard is in the wand — read space
as shape, read a as i — the key takes subterfuge,
that doubling, double agency
when tomfoolery
is crossed with
rage. But
these
are
simply
carriers,
word-burdened, instinct-
tossed, searching for the perch within
a blasted atmosphere. Find forms, the message says, and
everything will fall in line.
The bird is in the
wind. The loft
is in
the
smoke.

Audio and discussion with the author here.

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