Until the white car came for him, I circled—
sun-cold air frosting my scopes and sights,
hard wires holding my chest in the sling of the wings,
my arms worn out.
When the siren left, I chased it down the hot city wind
like jerry-rigged judgment, though no one noticed;
no one called the network to report an angel
for the evening news.
No one was watching the roof of the hospital,
where I stood looking back through the atmosphere
and crushed my light engine into weightless litter,
knowing I could not build another.
I had not meant to depend on these limbs again—
to have wings a few hours is to understand a hawk,
unable to trust the ground.
I found a way down, remembering the bend of my knees;
below, they would call him duped if not mad—
they would ask why we had done it and who paid
and not believe the answer:
that I stole for this, to escape this killing little world
and all its same lands of plants and trees and people—
to go somewhere actually else;
to speak to God myself
instead of making a mud brick for my son
to build the foundation of a far-off church.
Yet what I made sank him as a brick could not have,
gone from my side like a knife in deep water
to awaken to my gift of pain and remembrance
or irreproducible flight.
I answered their questions and willed him to still sleep,
knowing he would wake to ask what had made me come back—
he would know I had spent the last hour of my freedom
in hoping the car would be black.

Cyd Harrell, 1998.
Published In Oxygen Quarterly No. 19. Further rights reserved.
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