I Thought Pigeons Were Vegetarians

Poem by Barrett Warner


No machine can thresh grain like a bird,
especially the pigeon who downbeats
a throaty song and floats off
with nothing better to do than be faithful,
like its close cousin, the dove.

Monogamy isn’t merciful.
Sunbeams stab through missing battens
as two newlyweds dodder to the peak
where an extended clan of bats
sleeps upside-down like grapes.

This pair takes its sweet time
harvesting a leg, a wing, a face,
resting between courses as if to relate
a story in a gambler’s bluffing way — 
shuffling, calling, raking the kitty.

Belief is a tricky beast
to keep alive on wheat and water.
Despite miles and days of crops,
and kept busy with the land’s riches,
I never lose the taste for flesh.


The 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry
FIRST PLACE WINNER

We are pleased to announce the first place winner for The 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blindly and selects the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final. The first place winner receives a printed certificate, an honorarium, publication on Alternating Current’s award page, publication on The Coil, printed publication in the triennial awards anthology with the selection indicated, two complimentary copies of the journal, and our virtual medallion created by the lovely folks at Hardly Square, for personal and professional use on the author’s websites, social media profiles, and book covers.


Barrett Warner is the author of the poetry collections, Why Is It So Hard to Kill You?(Somondoco, 2016) and My Friend Ken Harvey (Publishing Genius, 2014). He recently returned from a 25-year break from fiction, and new stories have appeared in Salamander, Gargoyle, Yemassee, The Adroit, and Quarter after Eight. Other awards include the Cloudbank, Liam Rector, and Princemere Poetry Prizes, the Salamander Fiction Prize, and the Tucson Book Festival Essay Prize for his memoir, My Thousand-Year-Old Disease. Last year, he received an Individual Artist grant from the Maryland Arts Council, which he used to finance his move to South Carolina to get away from everything. In April, he made his stage debut as the burglar Selsdon Mowbray in a revival of Noises Off at the Aiken Community Playhouse. Long on street and country, Warner supplemented skills acquired in the 1980s from off-road journalism, where his beats included NASCAR and horse racing, with an MFA from a small college in North Bennington, Vermont.

This poem was previously published in Why Is It So Hard to Kill You?