May 12, 1993

Angels of Deliverance

I have seen many false angels,
lately: fat cupids with their improbable
wings -- it is never necessary for them
to fly -- their innocence is their
brief buoyancy, little tugboats in a sea
of pure ascensions; gentle women
who peer from postcards in gift shops,
carrying their inevitable harps. “Sweet
as an angel” people say. As if angels were
sweet. I know that they are not,

necessarily -- angels are the greatest legion, God’s soldiers
and His swift messengers, His standard-bearers
in the field of battle. We have forgotten.
We do not want the Avenging Angels,
the Angels of Death and of Destruction. We are
capable of so much pain ourselves.
I am left with nothing but the long,
empty songs of the nightingales. Angel
of Mercy, always the last one
to arrive. Do not reduce the gift
to one short moment. I do not want
to wear my angel on my sleeve:
a small pin, gilded and symbolic.

My angel is not of me. He compliments me
like a shadow born of light. No mere cherub,
my angel is the fire of Divinity, an archangel,
sword raised for when my fear makes me cower
and my passion flees and I am left alone, whispering.
What use is Mercy then? Will her gentle hand
raise me? And her sweet face, the full face men long for;
what will she do then, my murmuring sister?

My angel will lift me. His face is fire, the wings are flashes
of gold flame, now blue as night, now gray and soft
-- the wings of snow geese -- now flame again, like the many facets
of a cubist painting. I see only the necessary face. He is the
rising light of a burning city, the sound of wings
like leaden wind. The voice is a raised chorus --
Beethoven’s great finale -- darkness and the soaring
atmosphere. I will be lifted, when at last I see the great
wings in their entirety. They will support me and carry me
like a cradle, like a coffin. And all along, I will hear another
side of the voice, one that begins like my deepest unknown father,
like warmth, like the peace of dark water, and the voice
will say, I have heard it say, “Do not be afraid.”

© Jessica Minier Mabe