Black Lawrence Press
April 1, 2014

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Sandra Kolankiewicz

Here at Black Lawrence Press we are celebrating National Poetry Month with a poem a day, featuring a total of 30 authors from our list. Today’s featured poet is Sandra Kolankiewicz, author of Turning Inside Out.

Keeping Pigeons

If you knew about having to keep the loft,
How they need perches, baths, enriched feed,
Fresh water twice a day or else they weaken,
Would you ever get started?
If you had been warned that the bright
Feather speckles on those white grizzled chests,
The product of all that breeding,
Would forestall vacations,
Sometimes bring disease,
Or that raising them would fall under threat of regulation,
Even become forbidden,
Against the law in some places,
Like Chicago

Or if you realized that when you moved to a different house,
They could never again be allowed to fly.
They would get lost,
Unable to learn a new home,
Forever in search of that one coop only,
The one where they were imprinted
By your hand, as if just that first feeding,
And no other care you could later give them,
Were more important than any new place chosen by you,
Some place where you might wish to live one day,
Perhaps alone

If you understood then that with pigeons a new coop can never do.
You will have to bring them with you when you go,
Make them prisoners in your aviary, the biggest you can afford,
To which you will transport them in a wire box:
They won’t fly there on their own.

Or if you knew you could be cruel
And the birds would still return.
Or that in order to train them,
You would have to rise three hours early,
Make your way out into the country,
Then let them go by tossing them into the air
To be driven home by their inertial
Routing, some inner mechanism
Registering the experience of the journey
So that they can retrace it;
Flying by sign, sight, landmarks:
Churches, bodies of water, urban parks;
Using smells, sounds, sonar, their magnetic sense
through these times of such breaking apart, brought back always
by their love of the loft.

Based on an article by Susan Orlean, “Little Wing,” The New Yorker, Feb 13 & 20, 2006


Nearly 150 of Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems and stories have appeared in journals over the past thirty-five years, featured in such places as Mississippi Review, North American Review, Confrontation, Gargoyle, Rhino, Prick of the Spindle, Cortland Review, Fifth Wednesday, Louisville Review, and in the anthologies Sudden Fiction and Four Minute Fiction. Her chapbook Turning Inside Out won the Black River Chapbook Competition at Black Lawrence Press. Blue Eyes Don’t Cry won the Hackney Award for the Novel. She has a B.A. and a Ph.D. from Ohio University and attended the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins. She currently lives with her family in Marietta, Ohio, and teaches at a community college in West Virginia.