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Epistle, Twenty Years Too Late

Let me explain.  I never meant to cause you
trouble, you a master of wit and urbanity,
you who called me angel in the dark
corner of the terrace, your smile
anything but angelic.  Keep control,

I thought, the two words in my head
like a prayer, like two marbles turning
over and over in the palm.  Keep control.
The cocktail party sedate by then, its conversations
and laughter filtering through the screened door,

I knew you were seducing me.  I let you
seduce me, fine distraction that you were.
Outside, the air had only the slightest chill
on it, and try as I did, I could not effect
my usual chilliness.  I rolled the prayer

around in my head.  And when you put
your hand under my shirt joking that my chest
was like that of the marble torso of Apollo, only
a god or goddess could have saved me.  Keep control.
Keep control of me.  Could you do that?  Control

this monster?  Your lips, stained by wine, tasted
like wine, left wine stains on my neck.  I
wanted.  I wanted to stay with you instead of
retreating to Boston, to my cinder-block room. 
But when the wings started to twitch and ache,

I knew control was the last thing of which
I was capable.  I should have stayed.  I should have
let you have your way, let the terrible wings unfurl,
the wings like something in one of your poems,
those intricate machines of control and abandon.


Learning to Walk

The halo, still fixed to my head then,
pinned to the calvarium’s fine table
of bone, almost helped me to balance. 
And balance is such a fine quality. 
No matter how many times my mother

recounts for me how I first learned
to walk, I have no recollection of it. 
But I remember the second time I learned,
because learning to walk as an adult,
like learning anything one should learn

as a child, involves shame and embarrassment,
those snickering sisters who love to watch you fail.
To clutch the two poles alongside you, poles
parallel to the ground you stand on, you wish
you were a gymnast or at least studying

to be a gymnast.  Instead, you feel
the terrible weight of yourself grappling with
the weight of yourself, one final and awful
proof for gravity. Shouldn’t a man who has wings
be immune from such things, be immune from gravity?

Shouldn’t he be able to hover in place, the wings
vibrating the way a bee’s wings do?
The need to stand, the desperate need to walk,
was embarrassing.  I said so many prayers then.
I prayed to any god I thought would listen.  


C. Dale Young is the author of three collections of poetry, the most recent being Torn (Four Way Books 2011).  A 2012 Guggenheim Fellow in Poetry and a 2013 Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, he practices medicine full-time, edits poetry for New England Review, and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.