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The filament in my throat rattles,
a burnt-out bulb in a shaking fist.
At least the hollowing sound has replaced
the electric hum of my asthma.
And my wings, how sore, pressed
deep into my spine. Each feather
feels like the wooden leaf
of a great desk I carry on my back.

At my age, I dread each sortie.
He lays on us two leaden words
instead of the usual one—
Take care. They easily flake
into pieces of brittle slate
if you hold them too tight.
I have little hands and must hug
the words precious to my chest,
keep my wings in check.

Don't tell a soul, but once,
over the Azure Coast, I felt a letter
slipping from me. In panic,
I dropped the whole word.
Forgive me, I was distracted—
a naked young man was singing hymns,
his long fingers separating tangled
grape vines. He heard the rattle
in my lungs, or noticed
the shadow I laid across his chest
when I flew overhead, the sweat
suddenly cool on his skin.

He looked up, and the word
I'd let slip slid easily
down his throat....
My ecstasy was in imagining
what it must feel like to swallow
a word fallen from the sky.
I hope it was a nice, rich noun.
Peach, or maelstrom.

Christopher Hennessy

Brooklyn Arts Press

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