An Education Acquired

by Joseph Milford

When I first learned how to fly,
I was amazed it had nothing to do with wings.
I was sitting in that school desk,
Its top like a wooden semicolon.
When I learned I was acne on life’s crust,

I thought things would be better
If I kept my high-flying to myself.
Gospel music made me think of fried food.
Sermons made me think of detectives.
Bible-school made me crave Kool-Aid, butter cookies.

When I learned how to cut off wings,
I was astute but had crude tools.
I was taught by toys that said be aloof.
I was present in my excision of the damnedest
Wings—feathers are evidence of gravity defied. Defined.

When I forgot flying and learned diving,
I shot straight from your tongue and from
Then on you never forgot or forgave me.
No matter how heavy the fog, I was
A scar on your arm or a circular said omen.

When I resurfaced, I brought up
A demon’s wing from a deep locker.
It was an oddity—I lied about it.
It was not a devil wing; it was a devil
Ray—its perfect skate form—my aerodynamic idol now.

Comment: This is a poem of indoctrinations and a poem of identity crisis. Still, I think there is merit in the exploration of imagination giving way to categorization and then finding itself again through method. The pathos of the poem, for me anyway, lies in the gap between myth and science, and the innocence lost in the process of trying to meld the two into a system of living.

BIO: Joseph Victor Milford is an Associate Professor of English at Georgia Military College and has just published his first book, Cracked Altimeter, with BlazeVox Books. He is the host of the Joe Milford Poetry Show (, and the co-editor of the literary journal, with his wife, SCYTHE ( He makes a mean crockpot of beans with a hamhock, brown sugar, and chipotle peppers.

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