The Wing’s Caress
What was it like to live with a man whose wings
brushed everything fragile
in the house, whose joy swept his daughter’s
tea set to the floor, his grandmother’s
wedgewood that had survived the fire bombing of Plymouth,
a flood, a sea voyage. To be so
awkward was a kind of cruelty. When he embraced
his wife, she could feel each shaft
rubbing against her, its soft tip
trying to press through
her clothes till it hurt, these quiverings,
these many, separate lives
along each quill. She had to breathe
through feathers. Where he fondled her
there were white scratches,
a rawness. When he caressed her, he tried to hold back
his strength as if he might draw a barbed thing
over her skin so lightly  
its sharpness wouldn’t be felt.
He struggled to tilt the tips down,
to make the feathers respect
her tender places. He wanted to be gentle
with everyone, to move quietly
when his children were asleep and the dark
had turned the house larger,
less crowded, and he could step past a vase or a toy airplane
without shattering it. He could look down
at his sixteen-year-old,
his fourteen-year-old and they’d not notice
his feathers brushing across their faces,
and when they were troubled
he sought to take them in his arms and say
the right things, but they
always carried shadows from his embrace,
were uneasy all day, feeling the feathers
next to them, growing
out of their own pores. They had to claw
at themselves to be rid
of this softness, and at night
when they stood naked in the mirror
they were surprised to find wings
not on their shoulders.
He was a man to be careful near
especially when happy, trembling
with love, rushing across a room of people
to greet his children who’d learned
to let their limbs go loose in his arms
so they’d be only a little marked afterwards.
In public each knew not to deny
he was their father, but to speak
as if it were only a joke
they could share with their friends.
And his wife?
She had learned, too, to turn at the right time,
duck her head, pivot,
step out of the way, wait
till he was tired and frightened
of the harm he could do
and had folded his wings under him.
It was then she caressed
his lean, ungainly body, she could love him then,
her tongue flickering over the small hairs
of his chest, her fingers lingering
in the shadows of his groin
though soon she’d have to be watchful,
again, soon joy would seize him,
she’d have to beware.
Making Love With A Man With Wings
How could she not mind the stiffness
of the feathers, each’s feline
pleading, the lifting of the spine
under her fingers. Beneath all that softness
bone, inflexible
quill and yet, against her, yielding, the soft tip
slipping off her, snapping
back. Did she love the stiff thing
for the slight spring
to it, the weapon
for the little bend to its blade.
Once he’d undressed her, it was her face
he found most naked. How could she
bear the taste
of feathers, the salt winds
in them? Just before, they’d been beating,
beating against these gusts,
seeking currents in the air to float on,
to be carried over the sea
he’d not believed himself ever capable of crossing.
Was this why, once he’d thrust himself
inside, he was shuddering?
As if the winds had rushed through him,
a black ocean was about to crash
down on him, its great swells
rocking him. Surely he’d be destroyed,
the waves would spill over
and break this woman too, the dark, fathomless
weight of infinity descending
on them both. Surely
she could feel the sudden coolness
as if the whole sea had cast its shadows
on them. Was this why
he was sobbing, knowing how much peril
he’d put them both in? They’d have to claw
their way to shore, dig their nails into
each other, cling
so they’d not be swept back, not be
drawn under by the tides they could feel
going out over their arms and legs,
his feathers limp, dark,
this once barbed and glistening body
bedraggled now, alien
as if its weave had been broken.
How could she not mind
this broken winged thing with its cat smile,
this shaft that had pierced her
little more than a pet now, content, curling
next to her, its claws
drawn in as if it had never meant
to harm her, as if it knew
what he could never know.