Wings Clipped – Rachel Dacus (Pushcart Prize Nominee)

Reaching too far in arabesque
I may have cracked the two bony flaps
on my vertebra through. The seam
is clear in the x-ray, an injury
that self-soldered. I can’t recall,
nor can my parents, when their child broke
her back in such a crash. I only have the mirror
image: straining to hold my upraised leg high,
a pointed wing behind my head.

The surgeon diagrams how this inner butterfly
tied to my spine must be sheared off,
crushed and repacked with materials
between vertebra that will be fused
and bolted with titanium. The fluid joint
that hinged my backbends and arched
like a suspension bridge
will merge into a solid trunk.
I will stilt my way through the day.

All my life I tried to be lithe,
practicing versatility of limb,
my spinning heart breathless
in bowed poses, sylphing
my cymbaled vaults and crossing
and recrossing floors in leaps.
Overstepping the air. Time aloft
always followed by hard landings.

After the vertebra were jacked up
and pinned and the soft gel that let me twist
scraped out, I saw that ballet let me soar
into displacement, and yet it also let me breathe
like a hummingbird in jeweled brevity,
feeling the flutter of force in minutest cells.

And here I am again ready to try
flying on the invisible currents.
This time not to the music of instruments.
Though the drag of a clipped spine
shoots down my hip, I lift the ribcage,
think arrow and elegance, think gossamer,
and let wings behind the words rise.

Rachel DacusRachel Dacus is the author of Gods of Water and Air, a collection of poetry, prose, and drama, and the poetry collections Earth Lessons and Femme au Chapeau. Her writing has appeared in Atlanta Review, Boulevard, Drunken Boat, Prairie Schooner, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, as well as in many other journals and anthologies. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and is at work on a novel involving the great Baroque sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini.