An Ordinary Boy

C. Dale Young


A fascicle of feathers in my hand, the hand
frantic and shaking, the arm holding the hand
as far away from the body as possible—I am disgusted.
I cannot pull out the central stalks of the wings
where they protrude from between my shoulder blades,

but I can strip every tuft of feathers from them
to bare the cartilaginous stems rising from my back,
from somewhere deep inside, strip the stalks
clean so as to better tuck them along my spine,
hide them, make them invisible beneath my clothing.

I was so foolish then, a teenager not yet able
to accept what he was. When the wings blackened,
withered, and fell off, I was beyond happy.
They would stay dormant sometimes as long as
three months. But they always came back.

In the bathroom mirror, I can see myself offering
a cluster of feathers to myself, as if to say
Take this from me and I will be forever grateful.
But the me that is a trick of light on glass
is uncaring, offers them back immediately.

If I concentrate, if I think hard on it, I can move
the wings, and I practice in the bathroom mirror.
But these wings cannot support my weight,
cannot buoy me on even a strong gust of wind.
What good are wings if you cannot fly?

What good is this ridiculous secret I am asked
to keep? With the feathers ripped cleanly away,
I tuck the stems along my spine. I bandage them down,
the cloth wound under my armpits, tightly wound
around my chest. I fashion myself into an ordinary boy.