The Application of Birds

by Bill Yarrow

We read in the Devotions of John Donne, "Spirante
columba supposita pedibus, revocantur ad ima vapores"
meaning "They apply pigeons to his feet to draw the vapors
from his head," but the word "columba"is ambiguous;
it could also mean "doves." I like the idea of applying
doves to the feet of a sick man better than I like the idea
of applying filthy pigeons to a person's nether extremities
but what does it even mean to "apply" pigeons or doves?
And how does one apply a bird to a man? And how many
birds would it take to draw out those baleful vapors, to effect
a cure? I know someone in need of healing. I know a man
to whom the application of doves could do a positive good,
but he opposes, philosophically, letting doves into his soul.
So I am offering him pigeons, a basket of preening fantails.
Open all your windows! Surround yourself with wings!