Wild Pigeon—by Nurmuhemmet Yasin. Part 2.

2005-06-27
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Back to Part I of this story.

A lyrical voice awakens me, dredges me up from the deep, sweet sleep that belongs only to the very young and to those exhausted beyond measure. A group of pigeons flocks toward me—I hear their voices alongside their beating wings, and I am shocked to see that they look exactly like me. At first they resemble the pigeons in my dream, but when I look closely I can see that they are different.

First, though, I must find out where I can fill my empty stomach. I ask these pigeons where there is a safe place one can find food. They change the direction suddenly, flying away from the dwelling-places. I follow them.

An empty belly

"Where are you going?" I ask a pigeon at the back of the group.

"To the mill house."

"What will you do there?"

"Look for pigeon food"

"Are you looking for something to eat?"

His eyes are icy as he asks me, "So you are a wild pigeon?"

"Originally are you a wild pigeon?"

"Yes, I am from the strawberry shoal."

The pigeon-catchers

I follow them to the mill house where I see large store of wheat covered with straw. The flavor is really sweet, and I think this storehouse looks good—without any trace of humans. The other pigeons look peaceful and contented. I also start to trust this peaceful environment, take courage, and fill my belly.

This is nothing like what my mother described of the outside world. I reach out trustingly for the wheat in front of me. Suddenly, a fierce power is choking my neck. I try to move away, as fast as an arrow shot from a bow, but find I am choking, and an unknown power is pulling me back, just as fast. I try to hide but I cannot—I am pulled down, flying, circling, without direction.

All the other pigeons scatter upward, and I fear I may crash to the ground as in my dream. I fear I am falling into human hands, but no humans are near. Time passes, but I have no idea how many hours elapse. Suddenly, two humans appear, and I think I have been caught—then the chokehold on my neck relaxes.

Suddenly, a fierce power is choking my neck. I try to move away, as fast as an arrow shot from a bow, but find I am choking, and an unknown power is pulling me back, just as fast. I try to hide but I cannot—I am pulled down, flying, circling, without direction.

"This is a wild pigeon," a younger-looking human says.

"Hold him firmly—tie up his wings so he won’t fly away," says the other. Together they bind my wings, grasp my neck, and stare into my eyes.

"Hey, this is a great species—it’s really good luck," the elder human says, turning me over and over in his hands for a closer look.

'Set him free'

"This wild pigeon is already useless—set him free," says the elder. "Set him free. He has already bitten off his tongue. When you catch this kind of pigeon, you have no choice but to set him free. Usually it’s only the leader of the flock who will do this."

"At least let us keep him for eggs," the younger human protests.

"This kind of pigeon—he won’t eat or drink if we keep him. He will resist and refuse until death."

"This kind of pigeon—he won’t eat or drink if we keep him. He will resist and refuse until death."

The younger human is adamant. "We can’t just let him go!"

"All right then, it’s your choice. You’ll see that I am telling the truth. I once caught such a pigeon and insisted on keeping it—but he lived only a week," says the elder.

The ordeal of the cage

"I will certainly tame it," the younger human replies confidently."

You will never tame me, I think. I will find a way home. I am ashamed of myself for failing to take my mother’s words to heart and then falling into a trap laid by humans. I draw all of my remaining strength and feel for a moment that I might fly free. Instead, I crash to the ground.

"Dirty bastard!" the younger human cries. "At least I bound up one wing—I suppose that kept him from flying free."

He packs me into a bag, apparently planning to take me with him somewhere. Perhaps he aims to bind both wings and put me in a cage. I see several pigeons behind iron bars, all gathered at one corner.

I see several pigeons behind iron bars, all gathered at one corner.

"You must have been very hungry indeed, or you wouldn’t have fallen into my trap," says the younger human, as he places food and water in one corner of the iron cage. The instant he sets the food down, pigeons flock at the corner of cage, frantically rushing toward it. At this moment, anger burns through me and I wonder if crashing into the bars would deliver a fatal blow to my head and end this horror.

But my wing remains bound—and I am immobilized. I raise my head slightly toward the sun, thinking that in less than a day I have fallen into a trap set by humans. If my mother could see me now, what would she think? I lower myself to the floor.

Neither eating, nor being eaten

In my dream, I see my mother against a deep blue sky, calling to me. My father appears, tall and stately, and I feel proud of him. They call out to me again and I fly toward them—but they retreat. Again I fly toward my parents and again they retreat. I stop flying, and they stop as well. I am thirsty and call out, "Mother, water!"

A human voice shakes me back to consciousness. ""This pigeon is truly stubborn," the voice says. "He has been here five days and eaten nothing." It is the younger of the two humans who first caught me.

"Didn’t I tell you that feeding him would be useless?" his elder replies crossly.

Just let him go. To watch a pigeon such as this die slowly is too pitiful.

"But if he continues to fast, he will die. Wouldn’t it be better if I just cooked him now for broth for my child?"

The elder is derisive. "You’d get nothing much from him now and you’d probably fall ill. Just let him go. To watch a pigeon such as this die slowly is too pitiful"

"Setting him free does us no good," the younger man replies.

'Nothing good will come of this'

"Nothing good will come of this in any event."

"We should have made a soup of him immediately," the younger man says. As he tries to unbind my wings and place me on the cage floor, I summon all the strength I have left, thinking I might fly up to the sky. But the wire is too strong, and I cannot.

I want to hurtle toward the cage door and escape, but I cannot. This cage is supremely clever in its cruelty, I think, in allowing anyone caught inside ample view of the freedoms denied to him—with no hope of regaining them.

This cage is supremely clever in its cruelty, I think, in allowing anyone caught inside ample view of the freedoms denied to him—with no hope of regaining them.

The air inside and outside this cage are identical, I think, but the life possible on my side of these iron bars might just as well belong to a different universe. Whoever designed such a device was truly an iron fist with the blackest of hearts—determined to immobilize small creatures such as me even though I can bring them no conceivable benefit. By caging my body, they hope to enslave my soul, I think. I want to end my life but I cannot, and this is worst of all. "Heartless humans who killed my freedom," I want to cry out, "either set me free or let me die!"

A familiar smell comes to me, and then I see my mother—her eyes gleaming, anxious, noting in turn my loosened feathers, my broken mouth, my pathetic, twisted wings.

The soul's release

"Forgive me, mother," I start to say. "I wasn’t equal to the trust you placed in me. I am not fit to be your son." I lower my head, like a condemned criminal in the dock. Why couldn’t I have died before she arrived here?

"You did everything in your power," she replies. "Now you must end this."

"But mama, I cannot," I tell her. "I am a prisoner—without energy, without strength. Much as I would like to die, I cannot."

"That is clear," she tells me. "And so I have come to bring you freedom."

"I no longer deserve freedom," I say. "I am no longer worthy of being your child."

"Then I shall tell you again—I have brought you freedom. You are still my brave child—you must not be forced to live like a slave but must be allowed to die bravely, with dignity," she says, pushing a bit of food toward me.

A high price for freedom

"This strawberry is the poisonous variety—eat it, and it will set you free. Restore the honor of our flock. And remember always that true freedom comes only at a high price. Here, move your mouth closer to me."

I gaze at my mother for the last time. She seems peaceful, and brave. I stretch my damaged mouth out toward her. My beak, my only remaining weapon—an enemy to the humans, it protected and fed me, and then led me into the humans’ trap. It is broken now, shattered by my failed collision with the iron bars.

Finally, I can die freely. I feel as if my soul is on fire—soaring and free.

The poisons from the strawberry flow through me like the sound of freedom itself, along with gratitude that now, now, finally, I can die freely. I feel as if my soul is on fire—soaring and free.

I see everything clearly now—the sky is still such a deep blue and the world remains so beautiful, and everything is so quiet and still. A group of pigeons gathers at the edge of cage around me, watching me, puzzled and surprised.

Maralbeshi County March 24, 2004

Back to Part I of this story. Read more about the author and his story.

Translated by Dr. Dolkun Kamberi, RFA Uyghur service director. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han. Produced for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Comments (1)
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Madoda

i HAVE MIXED EMOTIONS IM NOT SURE IF I SHOULD BE ANGRY,UPSET AND KICK MYSELF CAUSE AS A BLACK YOUTH IN SOUTH AFRICA AT TIMES WE TEND TO GET OURSELVES CAGED BY NOT LISTENING TO ADVICES OF OUR ELDERS/LEADERS AND NOT NECESSARILY ABOUT APARTHEID OR THE WHITES BUT EVEN ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS OR LIFE ITSELF. I THINK WE TEND TO THINK WE KNOW EVERYTHING AND WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE WANT ANYTIME WE WANT. YET AGAIN I STILL BLAME THE APARTHEID AND SLAVERY CAUSE EVEN NOW IN 2015 MOST WHITES SEE US PIGEONS OR THINK THAT WE ARE PIGEONS AND CANT ACHIEVE ANYTIN ON OUR OWN WE NEED THEM TO "MAKE" IT. DO I HATE WHITE PEOPLE HELL NO ITS THE EMOTIONS THAT CLOUD MY MIND WEN REMINDED OF HOW THINGS USED TO BE AND AT HOW SOME OF "THEM" HAVENT CHANGED THEIR ATTITUDE OR BEHAVIOUR TOWARDS US. YOU SHOULD SEE HOW MAIDS ARE TREATED IN SOUTH AFRICA, YOU SHOULD SEE HOW COMMONERS ARE TREATED IN THIS COUNTRY, U SHOULD SEE HOW HELPERS(MALE/FEMALE) ARE TREATED.MAYBE I AM WRONG OR IGNORANT AND EVEN UNWISE TO USE SKIN COLOUR OR RACE IN MY COMMENT ITS BECAUSE I FEEL LIKE A TAMED BIRD THAT CAN ESCAPE ANYTIME IT WANTS BUT IT DOESNT CAUSE OF COMFORT N SECURITY DATS SO LIMITED AND CONTROLLED AND BECAUSE ITS BEEN ALSO BY THEMDECEIVED THAT OUT THERE THERES NO FREEDOM BUT COLDNESS AND HUNGER. BY FAR THIS IS THE BEST READ OF THE MONTH FOR ME.

Mar 24, 2015 05:01 AM

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