KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 4: Fall 2015
Haibun: 421 words [R]

The Peace Dove

by Margarita Engle

One evening during the season of weddings and graduations, she appears in our back yard between one neighbor’s pecan grove and another’s eucalyptus woodlot. She flies around my husband’s head while he drives a tractor, mowing weeds. Her delicate white body, fragile wings, and the distinct black circle around her neck are startling enough to make him stop the tractor. The dove lands at his feet. She seems to be delivering a message, or asking for a home.

magician’s dove
circling my husband’s
straw hat

We feed her birdseed and watermelon. She is not afraid of our dogs. Her gentle call is a mystery. No wonder her species has been a favorite cage-bird since ancient times. She is the turtledove of The Song of Solomon and The Twelve Nights of Christmas, an Old World native so thoroughly domesticated that she retains no homing instinct at all, and no natural fear of predators. She cannot find wild foods, or survive outdoors. She requires a home, tender care, love.

laughing dove
no way to translate
the sound of wings

We decide that she must have gotten lost after a wedding or graduation ceremony. It must be a case of mistaken identity, one helpless turtledove released along with dozens of larger, more self-sufficient homing pigeons. She could be male, but I choose to think of her as female, perhaps because in Spanish her name is paloma, a feminine word, making all doves female, at least in name. I become fascinated by her names. Dove means diver. This species is called the magician’s dove, laughing dove, or ring-necked turtledove. The latter is a Latin echoic of her soft chuckle, tur-tur, not a reference to hard-shelled reptiles. She is also known as the peace dove, the one Noah sent flying from the ark.

She needs a home. We try luring her into a butterfly net. Suddenly she is playful. She rises away from us, then lands in a neighbor’s orange tree. The last time we see her she is fluttering on a branch, gazing down at a Father’s Day barbecue. She seems to be enjoying the mariachi music, the fragrance of spicy cooking, the festive crowd.

A family gathering strikes me as the perfect place for her to linger safely. The neighbors have not yet looked up at the tree above their picnic table. For now, the visiting peace dove remains unnoticed, as if invisible. Yet somehow, she seems to feel welcome. Perhaps she is home.

peace dove
perched on a branch

—Previously appears in Contemporary Haibun Online (Volume 1, Number 3, December 2005); republished here by author’s permission

Margarita Engle
Issue 4, Fall 2015

is the Cuban-American author of many young-adult verse novels about the island, including The Surrender Tree, which received the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino author, and The Lightning Dreamer, recipient of the 2014 PEN USA Award. Her books have also received multiple Pura Belpré Awards and Honors, Américas Awards, Jane Addams Awards and Honors, International Reading Association Award, Claudia Lewis Poetry Award, and many others.

Engle grew up in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during summers with her extended family in Cuba. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings is a verse memoir about those childhood visits.

She trained as a botanist and agronomist before becoming a full-time poet and novelist, and now lives in central California, where she enjoys hiding in the wilderness to help train her husband’s search-and-rescue dogs.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Q & A with Margarita Engle by Aida Bardales in Publisher’s Weekly (16 April 2009)

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