He says he cannot believe in angels
because he has never seen one.
I do not believe in his sort of angels, but not
for lack of visual confirmation, rather
that I live in a world that now
is so deeply in need, that an angel
might be our last, best hope, but
the scope of angelic miracles is
not likely wide enough to encompass
the utter disaster which we have created.
I tell him that I do believe in angels,
that I have met several in my life,
and scowl when he laughs so that
he must consider that I am serious,
and then he asks what an angel
looks like, so he will recognize one
when and if he ever sees one.
I advise him that you don’t have
to search all that hard, that you merely
need to be aware, and watch the face
of the baby when you stop and coo
at him or her as they lie in their stroller,
staring up at the always welcoming sky.
She wants to ask me
how many lawyers
can dance on the head
of a pin, but she knows
that at their hourly rates
no one will pause
to count them. There is
that and the fact
that lawyers are used
to calling the tune,
not dancing to it.
There is that, she says,
and lawyers are never
mistaken for angels.
He says, in a quiet aside he hopes
no one will overhear, that he
has grown tired of being an angel.
And not for the reason we might think,
he adds with a wry smile.
The work is not all that difficult,
in fact there seems to be less of it
week by week, but he has grown patient.
The real problem is sleeping,
there’s too much time for it now,
but have you ever tried sleeping
with a set of wings on your back,
talk about shoulder pain, and don’t
think of rolling over, that
is always a bumpy ride to the floor.
I tried being birdlike, of course,
but even the saints had to laugh
as I kept falling out of the trees.
She says she is certain
that she has seen
the archangel Gabriel.
It was late at night, to be sure,
but it clearly wasn’t someone of this world
and equally clearly not an alien
since there was no UFO or wormhole.
She knew, as well, it wasn’t God,
“Why would God trifle with me,
when there are so many more important people
to scare the devil out of.”
It had to be Gabriel, I just know it,
and in the end he did prove it to me,
not by speaking of course, his presence
was communication enough, but by how he dressed.
Only Gabriel, she noted,
would dare appear in public
in a deep beige Armani linen suit.
I saw an angel settle
slowly over Akron
dancing in the smoke
rising out of the stacks
of the ancient plant.
It flitted, darting in and out
of the gray haze, one moment
she, the next he, and as the sun
settled slowly down, for an instant
no more than a cherub.
It was not, I think, a vision,
I had seen this before
Ezekiel’s fiery chariot
tearing through the sky
over the Mekong, only to disappear
into the heart of a small village
and again careening madly
from the hills surrounding Sarajevo
until swallowed by the apartment block.
I saw an angel settle
slowly over Akron
dancing in the smoke,
I saw it clearly
from the window
of the Holiday Inn
until the night
leaving only the bones.
he once met an angel
on the bullet train
between Osaka and Tokyo.
I asked him if her wings
were feathered, he said
“no, it was her smile”
and it was gossamer.
Joseph said they spoke
only briefly, she through
long black hair, in Japanese,
he in his only language, English.
She was reading Murakami
he Dostoevsky, she
sipped a can of green tea,
he a small bottle of Diet Coke.
I asked if she had
a halo, he said only Mount Fuji
wore a halo that day,
but he knew for certain
she was an angel
or at the least a bodhisattva.
She says sometimes an angel
will appear, and you won’t know it.
Driving US 1 out of Narragansett,
the map says you are close to the sea.
You cannot smell the salt air,
there is no scent of cod or clam,
there is only faith.
The waitress in the Newport Café
wears the plaid shirt
and khaki trousers, a uniform.
You don’t recognize angels, sometimes.
I said she was Russian,
my wife said she thought the girl
was French, the girl smiled.
I said she had the smile
of a matryoshka doll.
The girl said her name was Lidia, she
was Russian. Most men thought
she was Russian, most women
thought she was French, she said.
I wondered if there was another smile
inside, and one inside that.
She didn’t heal my sore back
or shorten the seven hour drive.
I remember that smile a day later.
Sometimes angels just tell you
you don’t need more than you have.