His Angels Especially Amaze the Birds
Now we seek to investigate and to know,
And wonder at the things beyond our vision
Or pause at the wax overriding the lens.
Junkies in the barn with their hollowed-out veins
Slept in each other’s arms until one morning
One woke up and the other just didn’t.
And she stayed that way, huddled in the dust,
The accumulating rags, until someone dialed
The police, though at that point, in the heat,
It had been three days. And I wonder, in his fever,
In his mescaline haze, if her lover maybe
Hadn’t noticed she was dead, and sulked
In the dirt, gazing open-eyed at the rafters
Which framed the angels overhead, their dazzling
Trumpets and their wings. Looking up,
The roof, kaleidoscopic, turned. And so
The fanciful objects danced and combined
With one another, and the angels took on
The movements of a tractor and adopted rakes
For their staffs. When the cops arrived,
It was all that they could do to wrap her body
In a bag, perhaps to lend some dignity,
Or at least to cover the smell. Sometimes,
Looking up at the sky, or along the barn wall
Flanked with grass, I imagine the long stretch
Of hours, the repeated doses, through which
He maintained the angels and their wings.
For three days sweat rolled into his eyes
And he watched that comedy unfold above him
Like a film without a plot. Outside the clouds
Shifted and were gone. Sun shined over the trees
So their lashed trunks began to show.
Paramedics packed the bag into a truck
And pulled away. Honestly, I know nothing
Of the tortured boughs, the cut grass along the fence.
The world is an angel spinning circles in the barn.
But for those three days he didn't kiss her,
Didn't look down at what he maybe recognized
As the truth planted in the stillness of her face.
He just kept on staring, dazed, at the angels,
Now their wings aflame, now burning
Like desire and the rash between his legs,
His empty stomach and the dried skin along
His mouth. They burned, as if their wings
Were soaked in oil, until the feathers blackened
And their song crescendoed in the heat.
Until his blood, infused with the fire
Of the choiring angels, surged in his wrists.
And then the fever broke. The vision dissipated.
He noticed the sound of a wren outside the barn,
His hands covered with dirt, the woman who
Lay beside him and stopped breathing days before.
Still he lay there thinking, working out what to do,
Scanning the shoddy rafters for a sign from above.
And before the sirens, before anyone came
Beating on the barn door, he lay, eyes shut,
And listened, because he didn’t believe his eyes.
Didn’t trust them like he did even moments before.
He didn’t trust his ears or his tongue,
But he listened, and what he heard in the dark
Wasn’t a sign from above, nor an angel pressing
Her lips to his ear, not whispering hallelujahs
To the back of his neck. It was the low, distant,
Gathering voice of a wren, thrumming in the grass
Outside the barn and scanning the dirt for worms.