In Those Eyes

Stephanie A. Chiedo

© Copyright 2024 by Stephanie A. Chiedo

Image by Danielle Shaw from Pixabay
Image by Danielle Shaw from Pixabay

It was December, the trees came alive. It sang and danced to the tune of the wind. It was in that dry harmattan season that I took notice of a laughing dove perched on our tree while I was in the garden writing a poem.

I have never seen a bird stare alluringly at a human before. Normally, they were always on the trees cooing. It was an unspoken vow between us all, that we would just let each other be or else perhaps, when I litter some corn on the floor for them to feed on immediately I walk away. So, when I found this particular bird staring deeply at me, I was nothing other than astonished. Our eyes locked and it stayed that way for several seconds perhaps, as its intense gaze raged at me. I didn’t know why it was looking at me, it may have questions for me, and I’d probably never know – the magic of a communication that could never be breached. Even when I looked away from it, I could still sense those small dark eyes on me. I returned my eyes to the lovely bird, and it was still staring at me. I looked at it in amusement, my eyes with all the words that my mouth could never construe. And just then I whistled at it, and the surprise jumped from my eyes into its eyes and the bewilderment in those very dark eyes was just unfathomable. I don’t know if the bird was surprised that I could whistle. I saw its head turn randomly, probably taking in the sound. I know that head turn – my dog Kayla makes it whenever I am talking to her. That bird may never have heard us whistle before, it may be used to just the sounds of our yapping or cackling dry laughter and had probably thought that that was all from the human species.

I saw the questions in its eyes. ‘How did you do that? What’s that sound? What does that mean?’ But even if those questions were really in its head, I am sure that it knows that it could never be answered. I also have questions in my head for the bird, even if it may not be an intelligent specie to guess what it is based on my body language or my overwhelming eyes. I wanted to ask the bird about their origin story – just like in cultures where people believe that they were descendants of some ancient god. Where do their people say they originate from? I wanted to ask it if it could harm us if it could because of how badly we have damaged the climate.

The heat is getting intense these days, and a dwelling aboard is of the most necessary. Humans are cutting down trees these days in our region here in Niger state of northern Nigeria for industrial purposes. I can only wonder what it could continue to mean to them. I read that they cope well both in the wild and in suburban areas but then trees are being cut down to create space to build more houses that would keep suffocating us all. I know that as an African woman, I should support infrastructural development, but I have never come around to understanding the reason behind the mass cutting down of trees. Well as if that isn’t enough, human beings would still go into the forest where the birds dwell in to cut down their trees to make furniture for the homes that lack proper ventilation. I’ve always wondered what it feels like to live as a bird – on air, out in the wild and free. Where there is no question mark for every action done, where home is a place inherited by nature and not by man.

Those eyes that stared back at me were significant, eye-opening, and insightful. I saw freedom in those eyes, a life lived on nothing else but a strong connection to the universe. The moon helps them migrate and they can feel when a storm is coming… how instinctive! I always disturb myself about rainchecks before stepping out. To top it all, google map takes me places that I am going to. I read that they could travel several miles away from their home and still return. They know their way back home regardless. I’ve never heard of a lost bird before. But then even if a bird was lost, how would we know? They’re natives of nature and they could always settle for any tree around to create a home in.

I can only imagine being lost in a foreign land and occupying a space to call my home because I cannot find my way back home. Yes, it is funny because it is impossible. No one ever truly forgets a home as a human being because authorities would help you remember where it is. And if the home no longer exists? They’d tell you to live on the streets then and not ‘trespass into a space.’ I bet you’d think that you would get to live as freely as a bird then. It’s a damning reality to live like a bird in a heavily surveilled and taxed world. You wouldn’t be a bird anymore – you’d just be a mentally deranged person. People would shake their heads while they walk past you and avoid any eye contact with you. While the ones who offer you words of encouragement and those cheerful smiles would be the first to call the police when they see you anywhere near their property.

I love that bird. I don’t know if I ever saw it again after that very encounter. They all just look the same – all the laughing doves. I did watch that particular bird fly away from me to a very carefree world. It’s like the birds are dwelling on another planet I tell you. It smells like clouds there, smells like trees too and petrichor after a long-awaited rain. I wanted to walk in that world – no, I wanted to take flight in that world. eating corn that a heavily burdened heart young woman had laid out for me while staring into her eyes and wondering about her existence and origin.

Overall, the thought of my encounter with that intense bird randomly pops up in my head and I smile about it even when I am in public – it is an inside joke.

Stephanie A. Chiedo is an aspiring poet from Abuja, Nigeria. She is twenty-one years old and a graduate of international relations.

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