Concerning the angels

Favored first prodigies, creation’s darlings,
mountain ranges, peaks, dawn-red ridges
of all genesis, – pollen of a flowering godhead,
links of light, corridors, stairs, thrones,
spaces of being, shields of rapture, torrents
of unchecked feeling and then suddenly, singly,
mirrors: scooping their outstreamed beauty
back into their peerless faces.
– Rainer Maria Rilke, Duino Elegies (Edward Snow, tr.)


They are the leaves,
leaves destroyed because they wanted to live forever,
because they didn’t want to think for six moons about what makes a wasteland,
because they didn’t want to know why a drop of water insists on hitting a naked skull already nailed to bad weather.
– Rafael Alberti, Sobre los ángeles (Mark Strand, tr.)


As for me, I prefer the trees. But many are those who long for more anthropomorphic channels between earth & sky, who nurse a wordless craving for some being of light to precipitate out of solution & stroke their head – good dog – & clothe them in garments as full of the atmosphere of another world as any spacesuit.

I prefer the complex currents of the human or animal face. Reflections seen in still water are both greater & lesser than what they reflect: greater because of the invisible life that swarms within them & the bubbles of methane, lesser because – well, you know…

Tree: the very sound of the word directs our thoughts to the topmost twigs. Limbs, trunk – the homology with the human body suggests either headlessness or inversion, unfinished business or a fall from grace. But at the end of a wind-thrown tree one sees only rocks & soil gathered in a clutch of roots: a losing hand. There was never any inversion; there was never a mirroring. Again & again we mistake the messenger for the message. (What message?)

As for me, I prefer the fruit. The blossom is so urgent, so full of future. Think of the crimes it has licensed with its wasp-thin song of love & death. Long after the clouds of scent have dissipated, the limbs bend alluringly under the weight of sugar.

Bark. Skin. Scales. Feathers. Chitin. Fur. Moss. Lichen. Grass. Heath. Forest. Tree. Bark.

As for me, I prefer fat. Skin, bone & muscle all have their acolytes, but if the body stays confined to its barracks, who will fight the endless war on supper? Go tell your guardians of perfection: We are what exceeds us.

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