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The Vista

C. Dale Young
Not tenderness in the eye but the brute need
to see accurately: over the ridge on a trail 
deep in Tennessee, the great poet looked out and saw
the vista that confederate soldiers saw 
as they rode over the edge rather than surrender. 

I saw only the edge of the cliff side itself and then
estimated the distance down to the bottom
of the dirty ravine. This is what someone with wings
does when he knows he cannot fly: he measures 
distance. I have spent far too much time 

examining my wings in the bathroom mirror
after the shower's steam has slowly cleared 
from the medicine cabinet's toothpaste-spattered glass:
grey, each feather just slightly bigger than a hawk's. 
The great poet said one might find a vista like this, 

perhaps, once in a lifetime, but I didn't understand
what he meant by this then. The wings, tucked
beneath a t-shirt, beneath my long-sleeve oxford,
the wings folded in along my spine, were irritated
by that humid air, itchy from the collected sweat from the hike. 

I wasn't paying attention, which is a sin I have since learned.
At 14, after the wings first erupted from my back,
I went up to the roof and tried to fly. Some lessons
can only be learned after earnest but beautiful failures.
My individual feathers are just slightly bigger than a hawk's

feathers. But my wingspan is just about 8 feet. I'm a man,
and like men I measure everything. But vistas 
make me nervous. And the great poet made me nervous. 
And I knew then what I still know now, that I 
was only seconds away from another beautiful failure.

Copyright © 2012 by C. Dale Young. Used with permission of the author.

Copyright © 2012 by C. Dale Young. Used with permission of the author.

C. Dale Young

by this poet

poem
Someone has already pulled a knife
across my chest, and the rope has already
gripped our wrists drawing blood.

I am naked, and I cannot be sure
if you are as well. In the room, the men
come and go, yelling blood bath, half-blood,

blood-bitch. We never hear the word trueblood.
In my dreams I am
poem
Midsummer lies on this town 
like a plague: locusts now replaced 
by humidity, the bloodied Nile

now an algae-covered rivulet 
struggling to find its terminus. 
Our choice is a simple one:

to leave or to remain, to render 
the Spanish moss a memory 
or to pull it from trees, repeatedly.

And this must be what
poem
"If God is Art, then what do we make
of Jasper Johns?"  One never knows
what sort of question a patient will pose,

or how exactly one should answer.
Outside the window, snow on snow 
began to answer the ground below

with nothing more than foolish questions.
We were no different.  I asked again:
"Professor,