Unaided I could fly, swooping and diving.
No Icarus was I for what was there about me
that could melt? – no wings necessary;
just the will not to be on my feet and
no ambition for cloud lands that only freeze.
I knew the secret and could tell it, so soon
it was a family affair. We had a journey to make
to a place and for a purpose I cannot now recall
if indeed I ever knew.
Low we went and fast, laughing at the surprise
on every ground-fast face. We swerved between them
just inches from the pavement. At first we flew sitting
as if on invisible seats: our magic was prosaic;
but soon we became bolder.
Once I broke away down a peeling corridor to a dingy bar and through it without stopping to order: no greater intoxication needed.
After the swerves came now the swoops, clearing buildings with outspread limbs and unpractised ease, for confidence and skill came without effort. I tell you there was no fear and why should you disbelieve this plain fact? (Pilate asked what truth was, but I know he never flew – except in old jokes)
I let the others go on and perched on a chimney pot to think this out. How did I know old Pontius never flew?
One night in Judea he could have dreamed of soaring over the sea to Rome. But I dismissed that at once as irrelevant, for I was not dreaming.
For me then, on that hard unsteady roost, I was in the real world that had brought me sudden and unlooked for grace, just as true as all the griefs and joys that buffet and bend us from our first breathing.
I knew I had the knowledge of the birds, but no need of wings or mighty muscles. All you had to do was clear and simple – to be freely shared as soon as I was ready. But that was for later: now my companions were gone and I was just sitting. It was time to fly again.
Time to fly again, but now without remembrance of how I had first begun. The chimney pot was suddenly steeple high. A time for thought to cease. I trusted and toppled forward. A slither on damp slates and then, and then, a joyful soar.
And I knew the secret again and I knew that trust was part of it. Not all of it, but the soul of it, if a secret can have a soul. So much easier to trust when flying. Staying low now, arms outflung, along a road straight and deep between hushed trees. It was growing dark, but I did not doubt I would find the others.
I was with them again and we flew together among high silent ruins of factories. All life was gone from their gaunt bricks and chimneys but we were not oppressed, so full were we of our common gift. For us they were not lifeless husks of expectation: they were a playground in which we wheeled and circled.
Then I woke up quite suddenly. For a moment I thought I still had the secret, but the shade of Pilate sniggered as I walked to catch my train.