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.
The most important lessons he taught were in those moments when he was absolutely silent, the smile across his face shouting across the background din of everyday life, his eyes wide with a sort of childish awe that I had long since given up as adolescent.
The child sees everything for the first time regardless how many times she has gazed at what we adults are certain is the same scene, a pure iteration, hears each call of the cardinal as a never-before-heard song, not the now boring chorus of a too long repeated lyric, its melody now painful.
His lessons too easily slipped away, as he did a few years later, mourning a poor substitute for memories that eased into the damp ground with him, but the smile of my granddaughter at seemingly everything and nothing, her laughter at the squirrel inverted from the crook arm of the bird feeder defying the shield below to stop his constant thefts, the giggles at the clouds filling the sky with characters I could not hope to see, brought him back, and with him the joys of my childhood long suppressed.
The birds look at us as though we had two heads. They cannot, they say, comprehend how we can stand to live in boxes, to travel in metal containers, to be stuck forever to the ground. They say that food should be picked then eaten instantly, not packaged and half thrown away. They say they cannot see how we are supposedly more evolved than they, for they have the sort of freedom about which we only talk endlessly. But most of all, and saddest of all, we know they pity us as we pity ourselves.
Tomorrow this poem will most assuredly no longer be here, though when during the night it will slip away, never again to be seen, I don’t know or perhaps it will return in a form I would not recognize, recrafted by the hand of an unseen editor.
It may take on a meaning unfamiliar, or translate itself into a tongue that I can neither speak nor read, or perhaps, most dreadedly, assume the shape of prose, accreting words until the embedded thought is bloated and wholly unrecognizable.
Even if I tried to stop it, watched carefully, it would no doubt remind me that poems have a life of their own once cast to paper or pixels, and I am at best only another editor or reader, and it takes kindly on most days to neither.