Birds In The Snow

Pigeons aren’t exactly the most aggressive of birds,
They are, after all, more dove than hawk,
But they weren’t this morning when the second snow of winter
Lay deep on the ground.

As I made my way to the dining hall for breakfast,
I threw some slices of bread onto the playing field
Adjacent to the kitchen.
Normally, when the field is green,
They swoop down in a somewhat leisurely fashion to peck at the food
People have thrown out for them.
However, with four inches of snow falling in as many hours
They obviously hadn’t been able to feed properly yesterday afternoon,
Because this morning it was not a leisurely swoop, but
An almighty rush, every man for himself
As they tore the few slices to shreds and devoured them in seconds.

The starlings and sparrows hardly got a look in,
But one fellow who did, and soon regretted it,
Was a solitary wagtail.
He dived for a small crumb of bread,
And within half a second he was being mugged, literally mugged,
By half a dozen ferrals.
He flew off in rather a hurry after that,
And he was lucky he did, for if he’d stayed
I fancy they’d have killed him.

It was only when I saw such normally placid and
Good-natured creatures acting in such an outrageous and bullying manner that
I realised just how terrible a thing is hunger,
Because of what it does to people,
The way it alters their characters for the worst,
And the at times quite monstrous things it drives them to do.

February 9, 1985

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