Finally Learning to Fly

by Paul Raworth Bennett

many years ago
under sunny skies
as a young eagle
who hadn’t learned to fly
I watched with fascination
another eagle, high overhead,
soaring the blue
commanding the thermals

he landed before me
offered a fresh-caught salmon
which I devoured
his eyes called my name
instantly, we were friends

idolizing this eagle, I wanted
to grow up to be just like him
so over the next three years
he became the older brother
he knew I’d always wanted

taking me under his wing
white, strong, gentle
he mentored me about
adult eagle matters
and how I could
earn my wings and fly

and in his private nest
he fed me lots more salmon
that became less
and less and
less
like what I’d enjoyed
that first sunny day

the fish tasted sweet
in a very strange way
I didn’t know if it was
good or bad
I became torn between
pleasure and worry
fascination and fear, but
he reassured me that
it would make me strong, so
I ate it many times

trusting him,
I reminded myself that
he cared deeply for me, and
I questioned myself about
why I would ever
think otherwise

he would often often
trim my feathers gently
with his claws and beak
saying they would
grow back stronger and
I would fly higher

this too felt unusual, so
I resisted his touch, but
he was friendly and kind, and
it felt nice to be cared for

he knew that in eagle school
in my seventh year
I was learning about the ancients
who I thought were very cool
so he taught me about them too
saying that the ancients
would often groom
the younger ones this way

I remember
the way he flew in perfect circles
the seashells decorating his nest
the waxy feel of his brilliant feathers
the softness of his talons and beak
the way he showed me how
my own feathers were maturing, and
how they differed from his

and I remember
my tortured thoughts
oh, how I came to hate
the fish and the grooming
but I knew that
refusing would mean
I’d lose his friendship

I remember it all
because my yesterday
will always be my today

eventually I saw that
his eyes had become glowing embers
his claws had become razor blades
his feathers had turned black
and was forcing me into a cage
made of rotting eagle bones

so after struggling with myself
I broke free of the bone cage
vomited the last of his salmon
and left his filthy nest for good

for many years afterwards
my wings failed me
and I became really good at
rejecting my eagle friends
destroying my own nest
swearing and crying
again and again

not once did I soar
like my eagle friends
and I told myself that
I was never really meant to fly

but now, after
decades of crash-landings
which I thought normal
my feathers are growing in
thick and strong, and
I’m finally learning to soar

soar far and wide
with joy and pride
in the storms, in the darkness
on the thermals, in the blue

2 thoughts on “Finally Learning to Fly

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