C. Dale Young, "In flagrante delicto"

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

In flagrante delicto

An itch, and then the prickly
heat, the pointed tips
at the wings’ terminus tenting
the skin between my shoulder blades.
I was so young then — the pain,

the ripping sensation and that sound
as those points compromised the
muscle, as they tore through the skin.
The wings erupted. The wings
spewed from my back. I expected

blood to splatter, but in the mirror
the tiled floor behind me
remained clean. And as the
wings extended, I saw
that the grayish feathers

were clean. No one can recreate
the panic of the first time.
Some would say I am crazy,
that this was a dream. But
was it a dream? Over a lifetime,

I have become a Master
of concealment. I have learned to tuck
the wings, learned to wear two shirts
until the wings blacken, wither, and
fall off. I don’t even know why

I am telling you this. I shouldn’t be
telling you this. But there are times
like this one where, standing naked,
I try to deploy them, anxious
to show the very things that

used to terrify me. I open
my shoulders. I lean forward. I wait.
Go ahead. Put your arms around me.
Press your warm fingers
into my back. There. Right there.

C. Dale Young is the author of three collections of poetry: The Day Underneath the Day (2001); The Second Person (2007); and Torn (2011). He practices medicine full-time and teaches creative writing in the Warren Wilson College MFA Program.

For more poetry, visit The Poetry Section’s vast archive! You may contact the editor at poems@theawl.com.