Bearing the angel

~ after Hugo Simberg, “The Wounded Angel” (“Haavoittunut enkeli”); 1903

Until it breaks or something breaks it,
she carries a precious thing inside her.

Until the wind decides to let her fall
instead of float, she flails her arms

and hopes that someone sees her figure
plunging into the field. And so it comes

to be— this sombre procession moving past
the mouth of the bay, bearing the girl

whose unshod feet dangle like pale
headless birds between two poles. The faces

of these not-yet-pallbearers mirror ash-
colored hills and sullen waters; the earth

looks colder than the stones laid on a country
kitchen floor. Will they take her to the Blind

Girls’ School, or to the Home for Cripples?
The ends of her hair are slightly damp; they clump

a little against her shoulders. It isn’t spring yet,
though here and there are hints the season’s turning.

Snowdrops cluster in patches on otherwise
barren ground. Who picked for her the ones

she holds in her hand? Chalky white,
her linen tunic, her blindfold;

her wings, except for two streaks drying
to the color of old blood on one.

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