Beth Dalton 



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 Works Review. 

Switched-on Gutenberg/Vol. 4, No. 2 
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