My ballroom shoulders were ruined
by those wings. Now there’s hardly a scar,
just a sheen on the skin as if the light
falling right there had passed
through frosted glass. As it has.
I imagined them taking their leave
of my back: the exit hole fist-sized;
paramedics; a tussle of sinew and rag.
But it wasn’t like that. When I turned
my face from flying, they shrivelled
like spiderplants freeing their young.
Feathers husked into onion-skin,
flaked, choking the shower.
You’ll miss the sky, more than one
person said. They were wrong.
These days the strength of my body
is held in my legs and I like it that way.
I hung long enough like a doll
from the beating white engines of God.
(That kind of talk does no good.)
You never forget the standing start,
the torque of the upward stroke,
the rowing into the sun. Yet I’d rather
sweat here, down on the dance floor,
tasting the street – if it weren’t for the birds.
When I see a swan, like the last clench of snow
at winter’s end, my eyes drizzle
melted light, my nose starts to drip.
Whatever I’ve done, its holy water still.
I dispose of the tissues wit due respect.