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Winged Purposes

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Fly from me does all I would have stay,   
the blossoms did not stay, stayed not the frost   
in the yellow grass. Every leash snapped,   
every contract void, and flying in the crows   
lingers but a moment in the graveyard oaks   
yet inside me it never stops so I can’t tell   
who is chasing, who chased, I can sleep   
into afternoon and still wake soaring.   
So out come the bats, down spiral swifts   
into the chimneys, Hey, I’m real, say the dream-   
figments then are gone like breath-prints   
on a window, handwriting in snow. Whatever   
I hold however flies apart, the children skip   
into the park come out middle-aged   
with children of their own. Your laugh   
over the phone, will it ever answer me again?   
Too much flying, photons perforating us,   
voices hurtling into outer space, Whitman   
out past Neptune, Dickinson retreating   
yet getting brighter. Remember running   
barefoot across hot sand into the sea’s   
hovering, remember my hand as we darted   
against the holiday Broadway throng,   
catching your train just as it was leaving?   
Hey, it’s real, your face like a comet,   
horses coming from the field for morning   
oats, insects hitting a screen, the message   
nearly impossible to read, obscured by light   
because carried by Mercury: I love you,   
I’m coming. Sure, what fluttered is now gone,   
maybe a smudge left, maybe a delicate under-   
feather only then that too, yes, rained away.   
And when the flying is flown and the heart’s   
a useless sliver in a glacier and the gown   
hangs still as meat in a locker and eyesight
is dashed-down glass and the mouth rust-   
stoppered, will some twinge still pass between us,   
still some fledgling pledge?

Source: Poetry (February 2009)

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This poem originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

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Winged Purposes

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