Every angel is falling—not like a skydiver
rushing toward reunion
but like a fish leaping above the calm surface of a lake,
entering a new universe of knives & eyelids.
Imagine being born at the height of your powers.
One rainfall & your chalk outline
disappears from the curb.
One hurricane and half the population
of your migratory species
vanishes over the Atlantic.
I don’t believe in angels, but I believe in their falling,
their helplessness against evil.
Nobody is watching over us except
for the blessed satellites, most of which
are in stable orbits.
We point our dishes at the farthest stars,
searching for any crumb of meaning.
Who but the most downwardly mobile,
would turn unjaded ears toward the earth?
The first line is of course a riff on the opening of Rilke’s second Duino Elegy, “Every angel is terrifying.”
I was looking for a holiday supper main course for just three people. Our neighbor had kindly gifted us with some extra pasta salad, which was delicious, and we also had a green salad and my mom’s crustless pumpkin maple cheesecake for desert. So here’s the recipe I came up with. I should mention that the venison was also a gift from the same neighbors, Troy and Paula Scott, from a deer they shot here on the mountain sometime within the past few weeks.
1 lb ground venison
1/4 cup minced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
1 12-oz can of coconut milk
3/4 cup whole-grain rye bread in large crumbs
1/2 tsp ginger powder or 2 minced slices of fresh ginger root
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp five-spice powder
1 tblsp Hungarian paprika
lots of fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp salt
With a fork or some similar implement, stir and blend the coconut milk into something resembling a liquid, then pour a bit of it onto the bread crumbs in a mixing bowl to soften them up. Dump the rest into a large kettle on the stove and heat on medium low until it simmers. Beat the egg, add it to the breadcrumbs, then add all the rest of the ingredients and mix with a spoon or your fingers until you’ve produced a more or less uniform mass. Shape into eight to ten balls and place them in the simmering milk, which should submerge them about half-way. That’s O.K., because you’ll turn them over every ten minutes or so to prevent them from sticking. They should be done in 40-45 minutes, and you’ll be left with just enough sauce to spoon over top.
I was going to add dried currants, but forgot. Chopped almonds might’ve been a nice touch, too. As for the lack of a photo: they were meatballs. Presentation was not a central concern.
On this night before Christmas—a night Christians see as being more holy than most—it comforts me to know that someone, somewhere, is sitting in front of a phone, invisible as God, ready to offer an empathetic ear to the lonely, lost, and distraught. What better vigil for a Silent Night in which both finches and owls fluff and hunker against the winter chill?
In dark December, sink
into the memory of childhood
like a bog man into the peat.
Drink too much & sing.
Gather all your small griefs,
your long-bearded regrets
& grotesque humiliations,
dress them in red & set
them to hammering. This is
the season of fresh starts
& the slaughter of innocents.
Remember to cut air holes
in the top crust & don’t stint
on butter. Wear sensible boots.
Go out into the long night
& learn the names of the stars.
What’s there to be so worked up about? Is it
an upset stomach, a crumb of moldy cheese,
an underdone turnip, a ponderous chain
that clanks with every careworn step?
Let the snow fall amid the stenciled
branches, let the winds swirl like spirits
whose coming is always foretold, but who
cannot linger. They’re here, they’re here,
they’ve never left. They watch us who weigh
everything by gain, point to the shadows
of things that are yet to come. Curse
or blessing? May you be happy in the life
you’ve chosen. Remember what passed between
us: clear, bright, cold. I know this place,
this tune, down to the last mince pie and dance.
I dreamed I was taking clothes down from the line on a windy day and a sweat suit blown into my body by the wind wrapped its arms and legs around me like a child and held on. I carried it indoors and laid it on a narrow cot. The thing begged me to let it go, saying it would never really be Bob Dylan.