The Summer of the Angel of Death

This entry is part 75 of 93 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2011


It started out simply, a game
of little questions as she ironed
a stack of laundry in the afternoons

while I colored pictures at the table
and rain drew circles on the windows—
What would happen if you went to school

and discovered you’d left your lunch
and had no money in your pocket?
What would you do if you came home

and the doors were locked, and no
one was here?
I don’t remember when
the hypothetical problems became

more difficult to ponder, or if my mother,
pausing in the rhythm of her labors,
considered the metaphysics of these

further tests. Next, she asked questions
that seemed to be about other persons,
say, the neighbors next door: What

do you think would happen if one day,
you woke up to find your parents
had died?
I’m sure it was only

to prepare me for the difficult
uncertainties of life, to begin
to teach my mind to cultivate

the detachment which comes
of acknowledging what it can’t
ever control. I can’t remember

if my dreams were suddenly
clouded with locusts and plagues,
if blood bubbled upon the waters;

or if I ever saw in them the angel
of death waving a sprig of rosemary,
walking on the grass and passing

beneath the trees which trembled
slightly, even those whose leaves
were toughened by a long summer.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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