You've moved to the roof where the pigeons live. Steal paper bags of grain, bread, cigarettes. In the rainy evenings you write: 'I like them because they are dirty, failed doves.' (From my slanted window, rain slipped up and up. You said. What would we be if the birds weren’t here how would we know our size against the sky. Our old city was drowned. All paths mud, all childhood houses sunk. How small it was. Us in our opposite rooms. Tapping messages into our cardboard wall at night.) * (They say these birds remember. Bodies mutate but the longing remains. Rooftops dreams of cliffs and tide. Sea breathes through the hurl of the roads below.) I live in the oldest quarter. Built a wall and the water didn’t reach us. You in the new city (Fishes disguised as women stroll along the streets.) You write: 'I've burnt the photographs where we were beautiful. The softness a question. Do you remember becoming weightless the moment the heft of your body torn from you. Do you remember running into the street its song of metal & light feet clean against asphalt saying hello I'm here. I'm still here.' Years go by and you do not write. I watch flash floods and angry wave gods pray for my sons each afternoon, come home. Stumble through too large rooms, think you drowned. * (Sea salt fizzes into concrete, brick and glass. Pigeons carry messages in their beaks: Books of strange alphabets, rotting meat. Letters from the front, each word blacked out.) * A bird arrives with a letter in its beak. Childish scrawl, green-inked You write: Five years to learn my new lightness, to stitch stray feathers to my smoke body with the simplest of threads. Five years to learn the earth's pull, to unpick rooftops with my beak. This will be my last letter. How do you stay knowing what know? I have sent a bird for your reply. I inspect the creature, torn grey feathers, ugly jutting beak. In cities shopkeepers leave trails- rice to swell the bodies. I have never been cruel. I keep it in the shed with the oiled instruments and seeds Bolt the door for foxes. * (We unpick the old house with our beaks, Carry it between us on a trapezoid system of strings. Rest on water when our wings fail. The sea seeps in everywhere. Salt tangles our veins dirties our eyes You will find me gone with no trace of blood or feathers, years afterwards you will say I was a dove all along, like the bird in your books who brought back the news the water is abating from the earth's face who flew out and did not return again)
Ruth Jenkins lives in London and writes speculative poetry and interactive fiction on cities, coding and magic. Ruth’s writing has previously appeared in Strange Horizons, Stone Telling, and Verse Kraken.