Eva’s Inspiration

Kelly Searsmith

“For a long time, she flew only when she thought no one else was watching.” – Brian Andreas, Story People

The hunch came first: A braid of muscle dense as St. Michael’s forearm,

a meat-thick wishbone, tension-tight. When I stopped being sensible

of changes irreversible, the hump wore on as commonly as a callous.

If its tendrils slowly snaked across scapulae’s overlie, spine’s bent stay,

through the ribs’ shifting vault to anchor in the mysteries beneath,

I did not know it. As a body from a cross, skin fell away

until bone came through, pale as a deep-sea eel stiffened with rigor,

but no more painful than a finger snagged along the bottom

of a prayer shawl — Although, my eyes were turning blue,

irises shrinking into violets, and people came to look at me

as a mirror in which they saw only themselves as I stepped

forwards, backwards, forwards into their lives and out.

The feathers were the worst of it — itched and itched coming in,

as if my back were molting from the inside; I could feel each quill

like the prick of a pointillist map of the Milky Way.

Only the music made it bearable; not that I heard heavenly choirs—

I discovered notes between the notes, echoes of other versions.

And the feathers smelt of roses. Lovely dreams came to roost

in their midst (garden dreams, all green bower and bliss).

They were the warmest blanket I ever had.

I grew hungry for sweet things and light: the skins of white grapes,

then all the neighbor’s day lily petals, orange and tiger mottled,

until they too felt as thick as leaves; finally, the hum of a tune about young love

I used to sing when my heart first broke (that sustained me—

the sound slipping down my throat).

Not until I fell, did I learn I could fly. A stumble into darkness, over the narrow stair

to the wash, and, useless hands grasping, I pressed down.

The air gained dimension, light loft. I swept over the fear of a broken hip

as if it were a shattered cup that only wanted cleaning up. The cat started, hissing.

I landed, to find the tragedy of falling missing. For a long time, I flew

only when I thought no one else was watching. Now, I’ve found they can no more see

me soaring than they could walking in a crowd, no more think

of my shadow as it slides across their faces. True, I grow tired

of perching in the trees, and having no one to speak to but birds,

but the world’s a wider place than I recall it having been. And I believe

that someday, if I keep flying, I’ll remember the way home, and I’ll find a way in.

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