He Takes Flight The invitations mount in a pile on the table. One follows him around his house as gentle sighs, exhaling the burden of his duties, the things he was expected to do every day, the littlest of things you wouldn’t think were so heavy, like making the bed or brushing his teeth, day after day, ceaselessly. Another arrives like a warning whistle as he sits at his desk, his screen a streetlight illuminating the tracks ahead, his day a cargo train, car after black car, stretching endlessly into the wild prairie with its hungry harvest, his gut burning like a black coal, and the steam that keeps him chugging can’t move up and out his pipes. The last summons lands at his feet in a crumpled ball, after his partner wonders aloud what they might enjoy for dinner, and he yells back at her, not just testy, but mean and spiteful. Even this tiniest and inconsequential of decisions feels like a billboard shouting. He stares down at the paper, gazes up to her and collapses, not physically into her arms but right there before her, he falls into pieces, broken mirror littering the floor. There, his heart finally stills from the chase of all those invitations, and the soft round world around him catches up. It’s not that he’s given in or given up. It’s not like that. It’s more like he put the barbell back into its rack along the wall so life doesn’t hit him straight on, like he’s open enough so that life moves through him. He discovers that the world did not stop when he let go of his load. The sun still shines gold in the sky and clouds cast shadows on the sidewalk. He takes flight, an eagle gliding on thermals high above the patchwork of earth, unencumbered by life’s demands, no weights to carry. For the moment, free. And that is enough.
This poem is also part of a collection I put together called All the Shapes of Joy.