Once, when I had no skin left over my heart, I wondered if love were more
than a film of civility stretched
over lust. I wondered if I had ever heard an honest love song. For years,
I had no music in my heart,
and I wondered if fate were more than the hells we bolt to our consciousness
and fall into from exhaustion.

I wish I could write a joyful song with trumpets & violins. I wish Lalah Hathaway
would sing my song.
I wish I could have lived in the celebration between 1:55 & 4:10 of Keith Jarrett's
Lalene during the summer of 2014,
when I learned of M's engagement, when I was falling in love with S as she mourned,
when I tempered devotion with silence
because I couldn't reconcile my happiness with that death. Because I was afraid
to spend my life with a ghost.

How did I speak, mouth full of vows pinned under my tongue?
How did I survive, that song
unfurling inside—strong enough to shift my heart's timbre,
too weak to crack marrow
and splay the wings I felt, even then, rising against the cage
I chained inside myself.

One day I'll fly away. One day I'll write a poem with wings.
One day my answer to sadness
won’t be a poem. One day, the woman who stays will sing,
Whenever your heart comes close
It doesn't take much to know
The way that I love you shows
All over mine

—and a wind through the Smokies will hum like brass, and a generation of cicadas
will vibrate to score the day
two people believed: Yes, we can praise this moment unfolding—even while
we cull our fates from the wrench of the past.

  • The title of this poem comes from the Joe Sample/Will Jennings song of the same name.
  • The lyrics in the fourth stanza are taken from Whenever Your Heart by Phil Dillon.
  • This poem shares the image of wings pressing against a rib cage with Arthur Smith's poem Breakfast for One (The Fortunate Era, 2013): "She knew they would strain/ To unfurl the massive/ Pair of stained glass wings inside her ribcage." Neither of us was aware of the other's poem while drafting, but I'm very pleased that they're speaking to each other.