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My Grandfather’s Ice Pigeons

My grandfather would walk into the house,

on a summer evening after his work, then empty
his catch of mudcrabs into the bath-tub;
they'd flow out in a stream of ice-flurry from
his four gallon drums, then settle in a heap of
black and olive speckled claws, spikey legs
and back flappers waving frantically. One night
my mother caught me holding a broom-stick
with an angry muddie's claw clamped around it.
She ordered me to stay away from the crabs
reminding me why Uncle Eric lost his finger,
besides they could snap a clothes prop in two.
My mother went back to the city. I stayed
a week and my grandmother showed me 
what to do, first throw one into a bucket of ice
to slow it down, then bind the claws together
with kingfisher-blue twine in a slip knot.
Old Dutch would come to take them 
to the Co Op in his truck, packed in fishboxes
covered in ice. My grandfather would leave
again for his next catch, he'd take some pigeons
with him in a cage on his trawler. If he
had a good haul, he'd let one of the birds go,
when it came home it was my job to ride my bike
into town to order the ice. When I reached
the Co Op, Dutch would ask how many pigeons?
If more than one, it was a box of ice a bird.
He'd send the ice to my grandfather next morning
on the mail boat. They talk about the time
Fa Fa got drunk up the river at Spencer,
the river postman saw him through the mist
one morning, balancing on net-boards at the stern
of his boat, singing aloud, throwing pigeons at the sky.

Mooney Creek
June 2008


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