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
—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.