How I Lost the Sky

How I Lost the Sky
Toby MacNutt

I remember:
when impatient down at last gave way
to strong shoulders, when envy and pale fancy
were set aside for shrieking, whirling games
in rich wind-riffled colours.
I remember broad lazy buzzard circles,
the silent stalking of owls,
entire congregations of us wheeling
like a hive-mind, flocking, murmurating.
I remember freedom.

I remember

the day the wind
wouldn’t hold me, anymore.
It faltered. I felt it rise the way it should –
and pass me by, untouching.
As breath failed in my lungs
it returned, holding, buoying
and I circled and climbed.
I was still flying. But the wind,
the wind had dropped me, and in that moment
I knew.

I had lost the sky.

I told no one.

I gathered myself,
arranged my plumage preened and shining,
one last time. I stretched out
long, slender albatross wings
and leapt from the cliff’s-edge,
one last time. The sea-wind,
racing up the rock face,
made all its usual enticements:
liberty, seduction, if you come with me…
I would have it keep its promises,
while I still could hear them.
Just one last time.

Far off, over a dark sea,
I sought and seized a storm-cell.
Not to court its lightnings,
not to dance between its raindrops,
not to steal away its bruising purples
for twilight feathers. No longer.
I drove hard amidst the thunderclaps
to the silence at its heart,
where the wind chokes on its own tail,

As I passed beyond the last living wind,
it did not whisper to me.
Not one apology. Not one last caress.

I fell.

I dove, falcon-sleek,
dropping faster than a hailstone.
I plummeted from one silence
to a deeper one, and its darkness
filled my ears and nose and mouth.
The sea-currents tumbled me
til I could no longer remember
where the sky had gone.

I had not known the sea,
no more than to stroke her surface.
Perhaps brush shoulders,
here and there.
I had the sky: how should I have known?

She picked my locks.
Her rippling fingers
rotted free my worthless,
waterlogged feathers,
slicked my skin.
Golden eagle-eyes clouded
and bleached to silver,
leaching colour
into her dark depths.

I shimmer, now.
I am a lithe thing,
curving more smoothly
than any thermal.

And on clear nights,
little glowing, rising plankton
reflect against the surface,
a scattering myriad of glittering lights:

twice as many stars
as any sky.

Toby MacNutt is an artist and teacher who lives in Burlington, VT. Their poems have recently been published by or are forthcoming from inkscrawl, Goblin Fruit, and Strange Horizons. You can find more at, or say hi on Twitter @tylluan.