by Robert Thomas
Off work, at the corner of Howard and Spear,
I walk past windows of Parmesan wheels,
ropes of garlic, and cheese from the white oxen
of Tuscany. The bay breeze salts my throat.
My wings carefully folded against my spine,
six layers of gilt-edged feathers
folded each morning like an origami crane
to fit inside my crisp tucked shirt,
begin against my will to ripple, to chafe.
A burning in my shoulder blades spreads
down my ribs as I get closer to the pier.
Pigeons strutting on the plaza give way
to the gulls and forked-tail terns of the sea.
On the sidewalk downtown, men and women
pass me to converge at the edge of the water.
The first ones are already aloft, gliding
toward the Farallon Islands, just visible
in the distance. A woman takes off her coat,
drops it in the street, and the power of the dark
blue pinions that emerge is unbelievable, lifting her
as she cries klea, klea to the rasping krrekk, krrekk
of a man whose white scapulars beat into the gale.
They have forgotten everything but the lashing wind,
the occasional glint of a fish far below, and the glare
as they dive toward the sun. I take off my shirt,
and my huge, unwieldy wings slowly unfold
and compose themselves. Heavy as armor,
they hang useless and serene. Why must I
come day after day to watch those appalling
plunges, that awful hovering, the ecstatic
shrieking wheels while I stand in the dusk,
my iridescent plumage dignified and rigid?
First published in The Sewanee Review.
I discovered this Robert Thomas poem was included in a virtual-anthology at http://othervoicespoetry.org/toc.html along with some other poets of note. Their masthead stipulates that: "The Other Voices International Project is made up of a small dedicated staff whose desire is to bring you the best poetry possible from around the world in the form of a cyber-anthology. As the project grows so does our belief that the bottom line for this project is the poets and their voices as they look upon the world and attempt to find some way for us to meet and understand the consequences of what it means to be human..."