Today's poem is by Constantine Contogenis
Before he hit, another
breathing creature timed its leap
to kiss him hard, break his skin,
teeth, nose, but blasted its own breath
to his brain, waking a taste
of salt, the knowledge of
entering the sea as he did
and last thoughts of dolphin.
Before falling, unable
to read clouds, he baited air
with feathers and sweat, was caught
by a thermal: across his
shoulders an octopus of air
sucked at the hairs of his arms,
until islands receded,
and he knew he was of age.
Before losing sight of his
father, he had stopped looking,
having no more amazement
for making, for how the man
with wings continued to shape
the air, as he let it prove
what slant of extended wings
soared, dived, and kept him in air.
Before escape, he was shamed
by flapping his arms like a
bird, by the pains, the muscles
growing inside chest and neck,
by his father's practiced change
of direction between glides,
making separate things part of
himself, himself part of things.
Before the wings were ready,
Daedalos taught him to make
glues from boiled hooves, test them
with honeycombs, and give names
to the ones stone seals could mark
but wheels could not pull apart.
With a tanning knife, he cut
the signets out of the wax.
Before their imprisonment,
he watched as his father made
oak platforms, bronze hinges, and
Egyptian ropes cease to be
metal, wood, fiber. When he
tried to catch the changes in-
to catapult or light spear,
he became too slow or quick.
Before sanctioned entry to
his father's workshop, he sought
sad girls to question, sick men
to watch die. He introduced
himself to weeping women,
was aroused to ask the names
of their loved dead. Excited,
their answers to him were signs.
Before there was a workbench,
he kept eyes to the wind until
he blinked or cried. He built walls
with holes facing the strongest
winds, wedged thin crystals, and looked
into the heart of the lung,
back at the eye, heard last breaths,
saw nothing there to be seen.
Before his father told him
the idea of windows, he
loved both sides of walls, locusts
leaving carapaces, ewes
licking newborns free of last
membranes, fish breaching the first
time, eggshells pushed in on wet
feathers, the dead in his life.
Copyright © 2004 Constantine Contogenis All rights reserved
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission
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Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2004 Verse Daily All Rights Reserved