When I flew to Paris to meet another man,
I joined a techno party in the Detroit airport basement,
full of flashing lights and pulsing beat
It was marked, it was art, everyone knew.
I’m less sure they knew about the zoo
on the top floor, where trapped birds
flit like brown streamers, chirping from spoke to spoke
of ceiling-spangling supports.
Sometimes we’re blind to the prisoners around us.
Everyone has heard the story. It’s that kind of era.
It happens at one airport or border checkpoint or another
every other week, but this was mine.
Unattended baggage drew heavy security in my heart.
Fields of cloud, fighter-plane-plowed,
blew me and my past apart.
It took you long enough, but you did it.
You helped me up, dragged me out of the fire, held my hand in Oslo,
and listened when I insisted there were voices.
There were. There was unmarked airport art—
a whisper directly from a hidden speaker to me saying:
“You are invaluable. You are life. You are freedom,”
and I cried with wanting to believe.
You didn’t hear it til I made you listen.
Sometimes I’m deaf, too, or the lines are weighed down.
Our connection has been iffy for months.
Wifi is especially spotty when you’re in Copenhagen,
so I say, “You’re breaking up.”
“No, we’re breaking up,” you say.
You think it’s the legacy
of the long loneliness I lay in,
that I can’t forgive you that,
can’t wait now any longer
for something warm and kind.
I think it’s the sudden realization
of the sky, a window opened, a cry and rush of wings.
Before I knew what was happening,
the sun was so much brighter and closer
than neon lights and reflecting glass could come.
That’s the story people expect, anyway.
But then I missed the familiar bones of the cage.
The white and blue of the pristine beach,
endless stretches of clear skies,
luring sailors toward rocks—
everything got old.
We hitched a ride, a few Sirens out of water,
to a new, old coast, giving up our tails, our feathers,
even the part of the voice that shattered across waves
in perfect gemtones, and the part that feeds on that shattering.
Then we pushed off,
pushed back and gone to the next coast,
although we felt ourselves inadequate to the migration—
our GPS signal had been lost; we did not even have an address.
We went because warmth,
because bodies know where to go,
because when trying melted the wax off our wings
and we began falling, still telling ourselves and each other
that we might be flying—
the ocean glittered, held out its arms, broke the trust-fall of our try,
and we were not so childish as to believe all would be well,
we could see ourselves and we were puny, we were small.
But we were human enough also to try and try again.
This still isn’t right.
You lay in a long loneliness, too.
You need me to honor this;
you’re angry that instead I remember first how,
once or twice, your hands that held me
once or twice a week for a decade
shattered the wineglass of my face drunk in your grip.
And yet you are a cloud, a sun, a poem
stretching your rays verse by verse across my sky.
You’ve never hurt me save I’ve hurt myself,
but maybe there I am, doing it again.
Whatever is right, this much is true for now:
I’ve sent the children who never were and never will be off to an Aunt—
Maya Angelou who has whiskey with me on Sundays,
or Oscar Wilde whose name I stole for them.
I’ve packed again and soon enough, I’ll load the wagon we brought west.
I’ll cover up the crushed grapes of my lips
with gray leaves of Midwestern grass in the great stretches of open space
between one push coast and the next.
I’ll sleep alone under big skies and they’ll pour their stretch into me.
The sun and earth will stain me with their beauty.
I’ll feel a deeper sadness than crying, a helplessness before hope.
I’ll grow too large for what I’ve been and done, and been done.
I’m getting out of an abusive relationship with myself.
There is no shelter where I can crouch while I get on my feet.
I wish you could join me, but you can’t come on this trip.
I hope to see you again soon, when the sky is just as blue,
when the stretch of road has pulsed across the country and my life
one more time, if I am lucky, and I feel sure enough of my escape to rest
with and on you. We could have, after the only revolution I can make,
a true marriage. But you have to make your own revolution, too.