Pigeons in a City on the Threshold of Christmas

The walkabout pigeons are begging on the roads of Cardiff:
priests of the Word reduced to beggary, they sing a psalm on the pavement,
they recite verse after bible verse as they wander together in bare feet;
apostles of the Word, among the footsteps of impatient passers-by,
they walk hither and thither along the walkways.

Pigeons parade hesitantly between the hastening feet:
then pause to sleep under the Christmas tree in the Square,
the tree has twisted decorations of blood on it,
a reddening twirl flowing in one nightmarish mish-mash
along the dark-topped tree of the Nativity:
the branches of our days’ darkness making a winding sash
of blood beneath the white star,
the glistening star of the soul up above our philistinism,
while down below are the pigeons caroling their praise.

Pigeons on the stone pinnacle of the grey-stoned church
gathered together to roost in cosy closeness:
bright-robed priests celebrating
the sacrament to their Lord in the holiness of their sanctuary at dusk:
a brotherhood of the untainted bread
a secret fellowship, close-knit,
close-knit until the tones of the bell,
as it beats like a heart among its bones of stone,
scatters them like the bread in the wilderness and forces them up into the sky.

O Lord, what is this sign you have given?
We have strayed long in the wilderness of our materialism,
and there is for us no dawn in the wasteland of our unbelief
nor is there even one well from which we might drink:
we have wandered about with our gaze on yonder land of abundance,
and we have longed for its threshold
leading to the milk and honey of its complex technology, and for the nourishment
of our spirits by the advertising on the network
of television sets at our anger-free hearths,
but famished we still remained after our walkabout in our solitudes.
A bitter blow its abundance turned out to be,
but let us lift up to heaven the anguish
in our eyes, lest the soul should wither and fade,
and there, look there, as now the city appears in bliss,
the snow is the manna, and the pigeons are the quail.

The last line refers to the Bible, Exodus 16:10-15.

©: Barry Tobin, Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, Third Sunday in Advent – Gaudete Sunday – 11 November 2005.

I am very grateful to the poet Alan Llwyd whose book of poetry, Yn Nydd yr Anghenfil, (‘In the Day of the Monster’), published in 1982 by Cyhoeddiadau Barddas, included the inspiring Christmas poem, ‘Colomennod mewn Dinas ar Drothwy’r Nadolig’.
The author very kindly allowed me to include it on this website both in its original Welsh version and in this struggling and straggling attempt to put it into some kind of English.


1. Milennium pigeons!.
Two pigeons near the Milennium Stadium, Cardiff.

2. A lone pigeon wandering in Cardiff.
"I must get a crust soon!"

All photos ©: Andrew Jinks, Riverside, Cardiff.

The Green Dragon No 12

Christmas Box