On Divali, a Brahmin man sprouted
the wings of an Indian false vampire bat
and his relatives drove him out of their home
with a hail of sticks and stones and shoes,
Avani left the bazaar all lit with silver and gold lanterns
to go walking through the alleys behind it where
she saw a little Untouchable girl making
something out of sari silk.
The silk was entirely put to shame
by the splendor of the child's wings.
At her shoulders fluttered the green wings
of a fire-tailed myzornis, tipped with black and white.
Her middle wings were the metallic blue and black
of an oriental dwarf kingfisher. Her slim ankles held
the red-capped brown wings of Mrs. Gould’s Sunbird.
She had two layers of feathers for her tail:
the short purple and orange of an oriental dwarf kingfisher
and the red-flanked green of a fire-tailed myzornis.
"I know you," the girl said solemnly.
"You are the woman who has no wings."
"That is true," said Avani. "I believe in people,
and people don't give each other wings,
except perhaps in airplanes."
"I make wings," the girl said,
unfolding the long fans of cardinal silk
edged with bands of shimmering gold.
"I will give you these, because
everyone should have wings."
To that, not even Avani
could raise any objection,
for generosity was a virtue
that she too believed in,
and so she gained wings after all.
* * *
Divali is a winter holiday in India, also known as the Festival of Lights.
The Indian false vampire bat is a flying predator.
Shoes are insulting across a wide range of cultures, including India.
Read about the beautiful birds of India.
Silk wings come in various styles.