I Don’t Have Feelings for the Angel

I’ve heard that phrase, The Angel
of History
; have read about it in works
of both poetry and philosophy, accounts
of wars after which, naturally, the dead

wind up entombed or buried in the soil,
their gravestones adorned with carved
cherubs or soot-stained angels with somber
faces— their heavy wings plume downward,

as if never to fly again. The angel holds
its hands aloft: as if to annoint, as if
to gesture at the immensity and utter
inaddressability of everything that’s

taken place, that’s been done to you—
which is why it’s often easier to still
the lips into silence, easier to stand
through the years as if made of stone,

as if stone doesn’t crack or break.
Has the Angel seen everything I’ve
always wanted so badly to know, but
no one will tell me? Has it witnessed

how and where two bodies made the seed
sown into the soil of my becoming? In every
photograph I have, my father’s brow is mine;
but I can’t tell which parts of mother’s

younger sister’s face I can claim, whether he took
it in his hands, if he was gentle, if he was rough,
if he demanded some show of loyalty that could not
answer back except in surrender, in the belief

there was no other choice. No one ever talks
about such things, and so the specifics are
lost to me; but since history is even then what
has happened, can the Angel therefore be held

complicit? Is the Angel the sponsor who must have
looked on without stopping any of what it saw:
in a back room, in a bathroom stall, in the kitchen
when no one else was at home? I don’t have feelings

for the Angel. I do have feelings for the people
it turned into my kin; for the bonds it multiplied
in ways they also strained to wear through the years
they lived together, fiercely guarding secrets,

loving and hating and fighting in the same space.
They are who they are, in the end: their portraits
thumbnailed into every side story, their skin oils
part of every bit of furniture in which they rested

their bodies; their blurred reflections haunting me
from the bottom of every pot into which I’ll ever
cast my gaze. Love and Duty, Love and Hate, Honor,
History— I want to say Enough, but the Angel isn’t done

with whatever it thinks it wants to do. I want to say Tell me
everything exactly as it happened, tell me what it means
;
but then I realize there are secrets they’ve taken
to the grave that even the Angel could not know.

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