Les Lopes | The Essence of Animals (Terra Incognita)

Les Lopes

The Essence of Animals

(versión en español)

A pigeon gives birth on a terrace
gives birth a few years back that is
in 1972 to be exact
and it only comes up now
because Betty remembers
this as a story she likes to tell
the point being
that animals are so much smarter
about how to raise their young
smarter than humans with all their coddling
and spoiling and holding on
but let's get back to the beginning
when Betty first realized that the terrace
had become a delivery room
the terrace attached to the dentist's office
where the pigeons gave birth
high above Rockefeller Plaza
overlooking the skating rink
which Betty loved to look down on
from her seat in the office
and she loved the dentist
her husband
who was a brilliant man
an undeniable genius
and don't say any different
or she might have to get ugly
and angry
and the conversation
will end on a very sour note
which would truly be a shame
so let's just say
her husband was brilliant
and leave it at that
Betty worked in his office
as a receptionist
for 27 years
keeping an eye on things
which is why she was there that morning
to find the mother pigeon with her eggs
and she was able to be their protector
and stop the maintenance man
from removing the nest
until it was time for the babies to fly off
which would be in twelve weeks
six for the eggs to hatch
and six for the little darlings to mature
in the meantime Betty
would love and care for them
and leave a little saucer of water
out on the terrace every morning
but what Betty really wants is a friend
which is why she is talking to me
here in this Brooklyn bar
without any pretense of anything happening
beyond a conversation
to ease the pain of being alone
after leaving her home
of 35 years
in the Upper Eastside
where everyone loved her
including the doorman
and the merchants
and her husband
who passed away two years ago
but now she's here in Brooklyn
a few blocks from her nephew
who is always busy
and she doesn't know anyone else
in the neighborhood
no friends nearby to talk to
so we have another round of drinks
as she explains the essence of animals
and how intelligent they are
the way they bond with their young
then send them out into the world
without any fuss or fanfare
like the mother pigeon on the terrace
who sent her five babies off
after twelve weeks
with no problem
after which
Betty complimented the mother
on a job well done
before she flew off herself
never to be seen again
and Betty misses the pigeons
and she misses her husband
who loved her more than she loved him
which she paid for
but won't say how
he loved her and that is all that counts
but don't get Betty wrong
her husband could be a real bastard
like all men can
her first husband was a drunk Irish bastard
and her second
the dentist
who died two years ago
was a brilliant Jewish bastard
who played the piano like you wouldn't believe
unless you heard it for yourself
and he loved her more than she loved him
and they had a son
who lives somewhere faraway
and calls her up on the phone
from time to time
but not enough
not near enough for a son
whom she loved and cared for
but then that's what happens
when you send your children
out into the world
which brings Betty back
to the essence of animals
and the pigeons on the terrace
high above the skating rink
in Rockefeller Plaza
and how animals
are so much more intelligent
than humans
when it comes to raising their young

Les Lopes hosts two shows featuring writers of poetry and fiction: Ozzie’s Poetry Night and Live At Ozzie’s. His poems have appeared in The Park Slope Courier, The New Press Literary Magazine and Nomad’s Choir. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.


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