A VACANCY OF WINGS | Samantha Barrow


He doesn't do the butterfly anymore

instead, caterpillars through the water

the gentle waves reverberating back from pool tiles

into swaddle shaped elder blankets

echoing death's next cocoon.


I watch the lavish wide huddle

of wet & bubbles

through the engulfing windows

of the YMCA

waiting for his palms to

split, spread and cup

as they fly up out of

the water.


I feel his hands on my childhood belly

bringing buoyancy to my frame

as I struggle to echo the rhythm he splashes in demo

thump THUMP P U L L   Breathe     fly    sink

thumpTHUMP P U L L   Breathe     fly    sink


His shoulders bob up the surface.

Anatomically it’s all there

but'amputated'  flashes through my mind


I want to ask

            Dad, what happened, are you ok?

            Where did the wings go?


but must grow out of these childish cruelties today.


He was not expecting

to float like that again

He thinks he's doing

just fine.


Samantha Barrow is a poet, writer and teacher. She directs the Medical Humanities program at the Sophie Davis/CUNY School of Medicine, and teaches in the Narrative Medicine Program at Columbia and the Health Advocacy Program at Sarah Lawrence.