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.