Of Wings and Worms *rewrite 

Courtesy Amy Judd Photography



Of Wings and Worms

They form a circle

on the edge 

        of the neighborhood,

a flock of females

in designer sweat suits,

leaving her to stare down

the soft gullets of their hoods.


I sit outside their circumference

on a bench,

still leaking weeks later

A slow-drip

      —of blood and loss.   


They stand like exotic birds

shifting stick legs,

chirping in a language 

I can’t quite decipher

of the glorious plumage of mates

and the height of houses

as we wait for children–

still smooth and delicate as larvae

to descend the school bus.


A worm still wriggles, 

half-baked into the concrete.

I wonder if it can still be saved.


A new woman alights,

sits down next to me,

heavy and pregnant as an egg.

She stretches out her vein-boned hand

clasps mine in hers like a rabbit,

introduces herself, newly migrated

from New England.


She examines me under 

the art of light conversation.

She complains about the Georgia weather,

flaps her dress over her legs in the heat,

says she misses the deciduous mountains of Maine.


She rubs the round sac of her stomach,

questions our proximity in the neighborhood,

points out her house—tall as a tree.

I nod to the hill where I work,

tending to offspring day in and day out

like that story I read out loud

about an elephant who sits on an egg,

while their mother is off flying

through different time-zones.


The canary-yellow bus

screeches up to the sidewalk.

Its doors open wide like wings.

The brood flies down the steps

 and gathers under us.  


Is this one yours? she asks, 

referring to the pale slip of a boy

perched on my leg like a dove

scratching through my pockets 

for his after-school candy.


But she already knows, 

having felt the 

     segmentation of my fingers,

having heard the hard, brown sound

of words from thorax that

I am made of chitin.

    

None of them are mine. 

I say to the worm on the pavement, 

to the white dove on my arm,

to the pregnant one beside me. 


But once I held a head 

as fragile and smooth as an egg, 

Once, I felt the thin-shelled skin 

of the unhatched. 

Once, I too, knew the meaning of flight.


She stands up and holds her hand 

over her swollen stomach, 

protecting the soft yolk inside.


Something flutters in my throat then escapes,

the monosyllabic wail

of a heat-seeking mosquito.


She cocks her head side to side

A hen examining an insect,

then takes a step back towards

the flock of females cooing over their young.

They absorb her back into their circle,

     —returning her to the safety of her own kind.

 

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