C Dale Young

February 1, 2013 C Dale Young



I learned to hide the wings, almost immediately,

learned to tuck and bandage them down.

Long before the accident, before the glass shattering

and the scene going dim, dimmer, and then dark,

before the three fractures at the axis, the three cracks


in the bone, it had already begun.  My voice

had begun to deepen, the sound of it

suddenly more my father’s than my own.  The beard

had started growing, the bones growing, my bones

sore from the speed of their growth, and there,


at fourteen years of age, the first tugging

of the muscles between my shoulder blades.

It began as a tiny ache.  It was just a minor irritation.

But day after day passed, and the ache grew,

and then the tips of the cartilaginous wings


began to tent the skin.  Father Callahan

had already warned us that in each of us

there was both the potential for bad and good.

When trying to shave for the first time, I nicked

myself, the bleeding slow but continuous.


Standing there dabbing at the cut with tissue paper,

the first tear surprised me, the left wing heaving

through the fleshy mound of muscle and then

the skin.  I buckled and, on my knees, the right wing

presented itself more rapidly than the left.


When I stood, there in the mirror, the wings outstretched

with their tiny feathers wet, almost glutinous, a quick

ribbon of blood snaking down my back.  You wonder

why I am such a master of avoidance, such a master

of what is withheld.  Is there any wonder, now?


I had no idea then they would wither and fall off

in a few weeks.  When Father Callahan patted me

on the head in the sacristy and told me I was

a good boy, a really good boy, an extraordinary boy,

I wanted to be anything but extraordinary.

C. Dale Young is the author of four collections of poetry, including Torn (Four Way Books 2011) and The Halo(Four Way Books), forthcoming in early 2016.  A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation, he practices medicine full-time and teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.