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     By Audrey Stydinger

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The boy has wings, worn like a backpack,
straining his shoulder blades, the shell-
shaped bones tugging like rope under
his skin, feathers landing
in sand as he walks. He’d wanted something
scaly, sinister, nature channel bat wings,
cartoon dragon span. He got
his little sister’s downy pillow, white sheets,
lilac smell.

Other children look, sunshine caught
in eyelashes, and then turn away. None of them
are jealous of the creaks made by slow breezes
whistling in his ears, the straps
pulling on bare skin. A Halloween costume
in July, it shades him when he bends
to make sand soldiers, guns of driftwood and pennies
and sharp plastic. He prods them to war,
fingertip pressing helmets, but they crumble
beneath his baby skin, and he uses his palms to brush
the mess away. The white sheets

sag. He pulls the straps tighter before
leaning in, hands certain. They dig and sift,
wet sand like tar, mending together like fingers
interlocking and he makes a house. Not soldiers,
not a castle with a moat and jagged
towers and a spiked roof. A house,
windows and doors spilling in
light, a stick family in the sand nearby.
Circles, ovals, rounded walls. Soft. He buries
his hands in his house’s front yard.
His wings clank together behind him as he moves.

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