Collared Dove

Released to play, my brother and I
kicked a football
against the wayside chapel
that stood at the end of the driveway
of our new apartment block
in a distant suburb of Brussels:
a rural town of chicory fields.
At night, the lights from brothels
along its one road,
framed in new windows,
kept us awake.

But in the morning, school out,
we kicked the ball against the Madonna,
thinking no one here
would need her comfort:
here was the new building,
the red lights,
in the evening, new plaster.
The car ran well; the ball,
with each kick, made a satisfying bounce.

But then a different thud
against the window,
and Mr. Klinsmann walked
around the corner, as though
he had been there all the time,
picked up the bird
that had hit the glass
and paused,

cupped his thumb and finger
around its throat
and twisted, like a cap, its neck.
Stuff came out the other end,
the neck drooping on his knuckle.
Es ist besser so.
It’s better this way, he said,
the gray neck softer than the Belgian sky
against his thumb.
Kinder, he added,
shaking his head —
and I thought at the time
he had just mispronounced
the English word,

because it was hard
it was hard to imagine
it was hard to imagine ourselves
that kind.

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