The Misuse of Wings

The Misuse of Wings – Micro Essay

by J. Eric Thompson

On the pavement at the northeast corner of Grand Army Plaza and Central Park South, jutting from the sidewalk beneath the clip-clops and tourist chatter, there is a thick, tapering line of bird poop. Look up. Attracted, perhaps, by the proximity of horse feed, or the rounded footing of the cantilever cables, dozens of pigeons coo and jostle. Their intermittent splatters have formed a sort of excremental Jackson Pollock below, awkwardly skipped over by pedestrians lucky enough to glance down in time. But why this light pole?

There is no room for even a flutter, and their footing, ideal or not, is also encrusted, as is every inch and contour of the pole itself. Nearby, poop-free stanchions, however, remain mostly unoccupied, except for pigeons patiently awaiting a vacancy. But they have wings, you say to yourself. If not roaming coastal in Bird Paradise with godwits and plovers, it seems they’d prefer a tree limb, at least, to a filthy steel traffic light. Their provinciality, though, is a means of survival; adventure into the unknown requires unnecessary adaptation. The avian equivalent of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We, though wingless, are free to live as opposed to survive. We are not ignorant of the breadth of this world, much less of our own fantasies and ambitions, nor are we paralyzed by instinct. Yet we mimic you too closely, pigeons. We tanagers and orioles and warblers and thrushes and shrikes and finches and pardalotes are easily grounded by the stress and hardships of migration. We too often find ourselves content with jockeying for a foothold on a shit-covered light pole. In our own sweet way, of course.

Fledglings: at some point you must jump. Stay moving and ahead of the crap that piles up when you allow yourself mere contentment for too long. No matter how prime or convenient or well-rounded the footing, seek a better place to alight. You may return, if you choose. But migrate first. Explore. Ignore the flashing DON’T WALK and fly.

J. Eric Thompson is a freelance writer transplanted from rural Virginia to New York City. He has a degree in English Literature from James Madison University, and is currently studying journalism at NYU while working on his first novel. You can find more of his work at

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