The soft split

I’ve been trying to grow wings by flying.

It doesn’t work.

If you’re a magpie chick
you need your mum,
dad, big brothers,
the whole arguing clan
to bring you food
and chase away monsters.
Your wings are ready
before your brain.
When your mum coaxes you out of the nest
she has to catch you before you hit
until you get
the hang.
After that there’s work to do.
Trees to defend.
Babies to feed.

If you’re a caterpillar
and you’ve had some luck
chewing leaf, evading beak,
you need a safe corner
and time to spin.
It’s quiet
and it takes
a while. When
you fly it just
happens. Then your whole thing
is to mate. Longing,
bliss. A week or two
in the air. A special place
for the soft split of laying.
Then floating away on what’s left
of the wings. Drifting
out, shattered to quarks.

From A coat of ashes