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When my husband left me, the feathers broke through the skin on my back. Nothing dramatic, just a scratchy feeling. Then they emerged like chicks cracking an egg. My own feathers were brown and gray, like my hair. I cut slits into the back of my shirts and sweaters and tidied the frayed edges with buttonhole stitches. Great big buttonholes so my wings could shake themselves free. And they did, knocking over the family photos on the wall and a vase of apology flowers. And his racquetball trophies and password-protected laptop. My wings were that strong. When my husband returned, my wings tucked themselves back inside my skin. I sewed the buttonhole slits closed. Sometimes, while we watch a show after dinner, my husband runs his hand along the seams, picks at them. Sometimes he picks too hard, and I feel the feathers of a wing poke through my skin and tear the stitches. The man has no idea what he is ripping apart.
Barbara Westwood Diehl is senior editor of The Baltimore Review and a writer of poems and short stories and work that falls somewhere in between.
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