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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Thursday, September 02, 2004
    Dublin melancholy
    There are no pigeons here. In a scrubby piece of green - Dr P. Barnardo Park, alongside Dublin Castle, on Dame Street, one of the city's grey and choking rush hour arteries, where I sit to take tea. It is one of those urban spaces only the deranged, the hopelessly in love or the tourists dare inhabit.

    This evening, I am the tourist, seated on the edge of a circular concrete wall which may once have enclosed a tidy lawn or water feature but now encloses just more shabby concrete, filled with litter. Across the park, two twenty-something lovers sit. And in the centre a lone guitarist sings to himself REM melancholy and Radiohead malaise: he is not busking to the home-bound hundreds who are separated from him by the park edge as they pass busily by. For a short time I am joined by a youngish man with torn grey longcoat and wild black hair, who walks carefully almost the whole 360 degrees of the circular wall until my presence breaks his step. He does this with a deliberation which suggests this is a regular ritual; a comfort to him which I regret disturbing. He is the same man I later see sleeping on a ledge four feet up into a wall at the side of The Olympia Theatre.

    To the eyes in the thousands of buses and cars shuffling along between Christchurch Cathedral and The Bank of Ireland (Parliament House) I must look odd: still in a place of merciless motion, alone in a city of conversation, eating food in a dead park where, for some unknown reason, there are not even any pigeons.

    But I'm at ease in this place, at one with its mood, drifting sadly through the six pages of Red Rooney in the Evening Herald as the crumbs from my bacon butty fall to no-bird and the nearby guitarist seeks comfort in Coldplay's "Yellow". And, rising from the litter, converging in the motor fumes of this breathless corridor, the words of a Handsome Family song* enfold me and seem to suit this city melancholy:

    Ever since you moved out I've been living in the park. I'd rather talk to the wind than an empty apartment. I wish I could forget how a billion birds flew in my hollow dying heart the first time I touched your arm. Once there were a billion Passenger Pigeons. So many flew by they darkened the sky. But they were clubbed and shot, netted, gassed and burned, until there was nothing left but miles of empty nests. I can't believe how easily a billion birds can disappear. The park is empty now. It's so cold out and all the paddle boats are covered up with snow. Once again it's dark. The electric lights snap on, but I'm still here drinking frozen beer and throwing potato chips into the white snow drifts just in case a bird decides to fly through here tonight. I can't believe how easily a billion birds can disappear.

    [*Passenger Pigeons, from Twilight]