I could use Rilke’s angels now as a metaphor
for how there are moments when all the beauty
and terror of what is comes together, a sudden
intake of breath, but I don’t believe in angels,
unless crows are messengers of some god, but I
suspect they are their own agents both somewhat amused
and disappointed in
those they share some space with,
glad that we leave them scraps of litter,
but more concerned overall with their own feathered stories,
with the lift that they ride into gray skies.
Everything that is, is a spark against endless night.
I cannot kill even a small spider without regret.
We spend our lives learning to shut them out
all those sparks on the wind. The child delights
in a brief light, disappointed when it snuffs out without
a trace. We become obsessed with the disappearances. Where
do they go?
Is that a smear of smoke?
Is that a scent of ozone? What of us
will linger in cold night air when our spark
goes out? Fear and grief. It’s fear causes us
to turn away. Grief forms cataracts over our eyes.
In Rilke’s elegies it’s lover’s passion, their transcendent lust,
that invites the angels, that breaks through the barrier
into other realms,
but always, the crows are there
to mock us. What other realms? Earth and sky.
Passion burns out. Desire remains, but is a small
breeze stirring ashes. There are moments, or half moments
that are not visions but the edges of vision,
that admit the possibility of vision—sometimes in dreams,
sometimes in quick glimpses of something in a crowd,
or sometimes the sudden silence spreading like a bubble
in the middle of the din and casual chaos,
when all voices stop and traffic’s paused at lights,
and the clouds are frozen above the glass towers
edged with light,
and gulls rise spiraling between windows.
It’s not an angel, but it is an intrusion
from some other sphere, an impossible moment in which
to take in the absolute impossibility of every moment—
but the lights change and the traffic lurches forward,
and shouts, conversations, screech of bus brakes, gull’s cries
drive the moment from mind and memory. The vision
is never realized. Fear is a part of it.
I am afraid that if I were to open
to it, it would wash through me, wash away
all that I am and leave nothing but tears,
a Niobe, turned to stone, a rock weeping forever
for her children who are lost.
Time’s an issue,
both what it is and whether there is enough,
or if it exists at all. Angels, I suppose,
are free of time or else imprisoned in timelessness.
The vision they would sell us is static, still.
It is a dim image of a place beyond
turmoil, a strangely vacant place without content or emotion.
It is outside of all that is. Not even
the dead go there. It is the void which
erases and surrounds all things. The void which Parmenides
denies as even a possibility. Can not being be?
Crows are wiser than angels. Gathering by the hundreds
to their twilight roost, their feathers borrowing the darkness
of the coming night. The vision does not come
from beyond life, but from the dark feathery mass
of the roost and the daily departure, wings spread
into the dawn.
So many live or have lived
More alive now than the sum of all pasts
and not only people but animals, plants, stones, rivers
the mountains etched against the sky. Everything that is
has a presence—the sea that beats against shore
and all the creatures within—they add their weight
to the burden of time. All that ever was.
And, of course, there is the possibility of futures,
of all things that exist now only as potential,
what might be, might have been, what will be,
but all that was and all that might be
are contained in the eternal presence of this moment
sparks from a campfire sputtering out into the night.