Broken Wing

Flying

(Read this one a few years ago in the CBC Poetry Faceoff. First time I ever read one of my poems from memory. Don’t ever ask me to do that again.)

By Crooked Lake it flew
Soared 20 feet into the sky
Curtis V8 roaring across the world
For a magnificent 20 seconds
319 feet
before its tail fell off

When I was young, seems like 319 years ago
I flew
Yes, I did
I soared
I  thundered
I roared
It started with a step
Foot
Uprooted from the earth
Sinking into rich firm air
The solidity of wind and current
Its purpose and direction
The rich firmament
Of my own belief
That I could fly

And I did

Up and away
Transcending doubt
Levitating beyond fear
I flew
Up and up
Step after step
Climbing the sky
My legs step dancing
Skating and sliding and pivoting
And pirouetting

Well, not pirouetting

And there I was
Flying
Beyond the clouds and the planes and the birds
Flying
With just one wing, my belief that
I could fly
Rising beyond the expected step
Into the sky
To plunder cloud formations
Stroll with the geese
Ride Superman’s lightning slipstream

It was a possible miracle

And then, of course, the curse of all miracles
Especially those that involve high places
I looked down
And down was an awful damn long way down
And I was starting to wonder how I was going to get back down there
Gently
Smoothly
Alive

Which was exactly when my wing broke
I sputtered on doubt, choked on fear
I plummeted, screaming, a thousand feet
And splattered onto the earth

Proving once and for all
You don’t necessary die in your life
When you die in your dreams

It’s waking life that kills you
Waking life, the greatest and most dangerous dream of all

That lifetime dream filled with illusions and delusions like waking up in the middle of the night with a bursting diaper and a face full of drool and all you can say is “waa” over and over, your wing a bud that believes you’ll be fed, and somehow, if you survive, if they don’t let you die, the wing begins to sprout, it begins to grow, and then you’re in this place that’s all rows and sameness and they crush your wing just a little bit for every wrong answer, twist the tiny feathers for every thought that doesn’t fit, but if you survive it, your wing grows a little more, maybe enough to straighten your back from the heaviness of all the noise they call learning, enough to glide you into this place called a free forum of thought where the thought is free from the stacks and rows and archives of everybody else’s thought but your own, the stuff that fits, the stuff that bog-oils the struggling feathers of your wing until you stumble, wing still struggling to grow, into a mortar board and run like hell into the knowable sanctuary of nine to five hell, a world whose bio-rhythms hum to the beat of commerce and trade and all that fits, where they pluck a feather for every time you think outside the “team,” and it’s no wonder that over fifty percent of people hate their jobs and the other fifty percent aren’t talking, but you stumble through it pluck by pluck, day-by-day, year-after-year and if you survive it they give you
A CAKE
and a pension
and you’re finally free to fly

With what’s left…

A psychic bone somewhere at the tip of your imagination
Naked and calcified by all the years of your life
Cold and brittle and ready to snap at the tiniest doubt
The smallest fear, the most ancient regret
Something frazzled and de-feathered, dented and fractured
Good only for flying under the clouds.

But did I mention…

That once…
I flew
Yes, I did
I soared
I thundered
I roared
It started with a step
Foot
Uprooted from the earth
Sinking into rich firm air
The solidity of wind and current
Its purpose and direction
The rich firmament
Of my own belief
That I could fly

And I did

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