"And if they were heavy, and even if no one else had them, and even if your children and their children didn’t have them?
Yes, I think so.
But you would still have arms and hands and legs, and you could still speak, but you had wings, too. You would want the wings, too?
Yes, I would want the wings, too.
And when you were walking around, people would stare at you, and they wouldn’t necessarily understand that you could fly?
I understand. I understand that they wouldn’t understand.
Or if people thought they meant something, something they didn’t really mean?
I would know what the wings were for.
And if you had them, forever—the forever, I mean, that is your life, you would still want them?
Yes, I would want them. I would take them, so long as I could fly.
that I might fly away
that I might fly away where the ships
that I might fly away where the ships of pine
wood pass between the dark cliff"
- from "Wings" by Susan Steward
"places i would fly away to"
1. to the fields before they come and cut everything down, and you walk through stalks as tall as you and even taller. to the lake after dark, and the locusts loud and thick as heat. to the slowness, and the not knowing what comes next, and the creak of porch steps and swish of swings, bare feet pushing off and lungs pumping night air.
2. to the bar in berlin where i learned how to forget.
3. the store where they had all those beach shack t-shirts and necklaces of twine and shell, and everything smelled like salt and suntan lotion, and he said, “you don’t belong here.” and i laughed and said, “i belong almost everywhere.” and that was how it started, the day that turned into three days, that was where i saw wild horses pounding the shore of the ocean. that sight, the great strength of it and how it physically hurt inside to see something so complete. i would fly to there.
4. the solitude of winter in vermont, walking up an iced path, trees making groaning sounds and i thought, the way snow falls is like hearing quiet, wet stillness that makes everything make sense in new shapes and constellations.
5. i would fly to the origin of the origin myths.
6. to the train station, where it came and went, and you were still standing there.
7. the fire where a picture was burned, of a girl in a blue sweater, smiling. how without even knowing, someone gives you a new name.
8. to the roof of the shed we hid on during kick the can, laying there trying not to laugh, breathing heavy, mouths close. to those moments, and how i did not know then, how soon he would die.
9. i would fly to hecate, standing in her crossroads, triple faced, ruthless and relentless in her love. to la loba, sitting in the wilds of her wilderness, singing over my bones.
10. to the place where we really looked at each other. where the other things fell away. and we knew what was real.
11. to a room of my own where in just one door over, i can hear a young bob dylan writing songs, and in the room next to him, or maybe it’s out on the porch, i can hear florida scott-maxwell writing on a typewriter, giving life to last words. “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done, which may take some time, you are fierce with reality.”
12. i would fly at night, when stars are like a cloak of interrupted stories, and you can breathe better there, space enough to find yourself between the in-between.
13. i would fly fast across sky right in the moments when the spinning tilts toward sun and it breaks over the curve, eruptions of light.
14. i would fly to 1998 and watch myself take flowers and leaves and place them into books to be pressed, returning them then to the library, like sending out messages in a bottle.
15. to the place where the bruises are deep and long lasting, and the apology comes with promises to do better, only to turn it around and place blame for having caused your own harm. the place that was the reason for your leaving, terrible in its shaking as hurricanes, sweet as your own forgiveness. i would fly to there, and help her pack her bags and fly us away to a room thick with understanding, a greenhouse of plants and paper.
16. to upstate new york, watching as snow came and fell around attic windows and knowing nothing could be the same again. and i wouldn’t even say anything. i wouldn’t change anything. i’d just sit there, and be in all of it, exactly as it was.
17. i would fly over cities, and watch all the lights come on at night.
18. i would fly to the deep of the deep, the hollow of the hollow, to the empty of the empty, to the center of the center.
19. to a waffle house, where another me is working, pouring cups of bad coffee, going home to water her plants and play her guitar, when the summer heat comes in through open windows, and there is nowhere to go and no one to be.
20. to the places where artists spray their revolution on brick and building. the secret ones. the masters and magicians, and from above, in quiet, i would watch them work, shake my head in some kind of wonder.
21. to the place where we were all young and beautiful and unknowing. how we could not have imagined all that would come after. how we would not have believed the loss possible. how all worlds were waiting. how we did not know and could not know, and how i love us for this, the audacity of innocence. i would fly to them, to me, to us, and let us do what we would do.
22. i would go back to the day he was born. and the day he stood at the window, jabbing his finger at the glass saying his first word, bird. and the sight of his little body and mohawked hair, sitting out on the deck in a chair just his size.
23. i would go back to the creek in colorado and build another dam with sticks and leaves, rocks and rotting wood. and ask my grandmother what it was like to work in a one room schoolhouse and wear your hair in flapper pin curls.
24. i would go back to the hotel room, and say just one more time. i love you.
i love you, i love you, i love you.
25. i would fly to the time i was driving with no direction, and how i couldn’t stop crying, and i couldn’t stop driving. everything was ending, had already ended. i would fly to her. i would tell her to just keep moving.
26. i would fly to the lake cottage, and the body at rest, and the best week of my life. the one i love.
27. to the hospital operating room, and i would watch it all happen, and guard her in the unconscious.
28. to the stag at the edge of the forest that guards the dream world. and because i have wings, this time, he will answer all my questions.
29. to the house in the woods, where the door has the sign and it says, here all dwell free.
30. to the coffee shop, dancing with the old man in a bathrobe to wilco singing "jesus" and how i didn’t know if the cancer was gone or not, and we were finding our own salvation.
31. to all the people i’ve ever loved who died. and i’d ask for just one more day or cup of coffee or conversation or even a look. just one more look, our eyes locking across the room, silently saying all the things.
32. to the big room with the windows and mirrors, dance steps painted onto hard wood. the click of shoes on ground. the fringe. the way my hair was short then, and lips were dark and smeared.
33. i would fly to the still center, without which there can be no dance. and there is only the dance.
34. to the screened in front porch and the rumble of the rock salt ice cream maker, and how certain i was that i could be saved, praying for rain so houses could not be painted, and breathing was so hard, but everything was still possible.
35. to the place where the sea catches fire.
36. to the place where the sky is an ocean.
37. that i might fly toward and all the way inside the moment where you know. where there are no real do overs, and you have layers of feathers on your wings that speak of regrets and grace, and in this moment, you have not been given a way to make amends, but a chance to awaken. that moment. the one when you know that you do not get to go back, even if you can fly. that you do not get another ending, or beginning. that you do not get to every fully understand the why or what comes next. that moment when you know all this, and you still choose to be here in the living anyway.