What Daedalus and Icarus did not
discover was the key to flight. What wast-
ed effort! All that waxy plumage doomed
to briny failure. Lovely ostriches
they must have been, flapping in the sky
like leaden kites, regretting those plans
for fins they'd burned in the supper fire.
Achieving flight is not the adding on
of frippery, but emptiness, a loss
of substance. Bats cut the night with skin
alone. Women have known this all along.
We envy hollow eyed women who glide
so daringly above their lives. They have
no marrow in their bones. Their ribs fan out
like wings beneath their beaky cheeks that slice
through clouds. What is more beautiful than this
bleak fearlessness? This hovering between
the earth and sky? Treading the dusk divid-
ing life from death, they are more ghost than not.
No one offends a ghost, even if it
is female. We real women, bloody ripe
and rich with fat, don't terrify our foes.
We can be plucked and pinched and bruised like plums
or peaches. A soaring skeleton can get away.
I was one once--my skull a helium
balloon with legs like fringe that trailed my
wake across the blue. There were no fea-
thers on my arms, but honest flight was one
more coughing fit away, another meal
missed. On hypnotic winds I flew, the smart-
er sister, closer to the sun, for flesh
is made of stronger stuff than wax. I flew
into the golden target; I was not
quite small enough to pierce the sky. I broke
upon a lightning bolt and tumbled down.
I was a lucky Humpty Dumpty for
they stitched me back together
and filled my empty places up with sand.
Today my soles make dents upon the soil;
my hair is long and tethered round a stake.
Sometimes I miss the giddiness of heights.
Sometimes I drink water on my front step
at night, watching all those other women shoot
the sun like burning arrows striking home.
Copyright 2000, Beth Dalton
Beth Dalton is an English literature and composition instructor at Ball
State University in Muncie, Indiana. Her poetry and fiction has appeared
in a number of publications, including Indianapolis' Flying Island,
Mother of the Groom (an anthology), No Exit, and New
Switched-on Gutenberg/Vol. 4, No. 2