One in a Crowd
Pick one, just pick one. Be that bird and feel how the wheeling in concert feels, how the breath echoes in hollow bones, light bodied, high notes' call and response. Find the motion mover, what shift or signal says fly or left now. Line up, wingtips, cut and go. Earth singing heart, sky singing voice. Weather — wind buffets and lifts. Rain soaks, find shelter in leaves, under eaves to shake and preen feathers dry, root to tip. Peck at puddles the rain leaves behind, sky- and cloud-reflected images broken as you drink. Rise again and fly. Soar, circle, land. On a wire, shift and raise wings, shuffle for space, umbrella flap of wing and weather, ruffle and settle, ruffle and smooth, sidestep towards your neighbour, back again. Preen, shake wings. And one lifts off, then four, then all of you again are lifting, moving, flying, wing muscles straining against narrow aerodynamic breastbone.
Suppose you were new to this place, that the landing pad was rubber not steel, and the pitcher hadn't shattered on impact.
Suppose you could draw out each story into thin purple strands, weave them into baskets that held fruit and clock parts, suppose you could tighten the mesh enough that even the tiniest seeds and sprockets wouldn't leak through.
Or suppose that the driveway was filled with lawn chairs and in each one sat someone you or I had lost because of death or inattention. What if you could ask my mother all the questions I never did, because I was too hesitant or too discreet. Suppose I could do the same for your grandfather, he of the Boer War, runaway from responsibility, abandoner of a woman carrying his unborn child. If I could find his soft centre, spin it into a thread, move it across shuttle into whole cloth.
Suppose the lot of them, still in their chairs, rose in a merry-go-round, untethered but whirling. Imagine you knew all along this is how it would happen, the angles of the skyhook, the invisible humming of the cords.
Let's say you took me by the hand and we went riding the air currents, escaped gravity's pull and sheltered in the crevasses between clouds. And that was just the first ten minutes and the days stretched on like that, endlessly blue and apple-cheeked.
Suppose you climbed the ladder and left me at the bottom to hold it steady, and it rocked and creaked as you climbed so I braced myself hard, feet planted, shoulders mustering strength, while the rattling clattered through me, and you climbed and climbed. And what if, at the very top after you'd climbed for days, there was a garden and there was no giant, though you'd be prepared for a giant, you'd always be prepared.
Imagine the waiting became too much and I walked away and the ladder fell and you were stranded, but suppose you didn't care because the garden was forgetfulness. And how it took me years to learn to fly without you holding my hand.
is a Canadian writer, living in Ottawa. Her third poetry collection, Openwork and Limestone
, was published by Frontenac House in fall 2022. In addition to two earlier poetry books, she is also the author of Seeking Shade
, an award-winning short story collection, and Tower
, a novella. Frances's writing has been selected for the Best Canadian Poetry series, nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and won local and national prizes in Canada. Recent and forthcoming publications include work in JMWW, Paris Lit Up, Rust and Moth
and The Literary Review of Canada
. Visit francesboyle.com
and follow @francesboyle19
on Twitter and Instagram.