The Angel with the Broken Wing
I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,
The one large statue in this quiet room.
The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut
Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.
The docents praise my elegant design
Above the chatter of the gallery.
Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—
The perfect emblem of futility.
Mendoza carved me for a country church.
(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)
I stood beside a gilded altar where
The hopeless offered God their misery.
I heard their women whispering at my feet—
Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.
Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,
And I became the hunger that they fed.
I broke my left wing in the Revolution
(Even a saint can savor irony)
When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.
They hit me once—almost apologetically.
For even the godless feel something in a church,
A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?
A trembling unaccounted by their laws,
An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.
There are so many things I must tell God!
The howling of the dammed can’t reach so high.
But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,
A crippled saint against a painted sky.
Reading Saint John of the Cross
How many miles to the border
where all the sky there is
exists for the soul alone?
Where the only breathers
breathing are constructed
from some new electricity
and the flowers are made
indestructible, and messages
from the dead arrive like calm
white birds with a gift?
One more night of spiritual
ice and we might all become
birds, green birds frozen
on a black winter branch.
There is a drumming in the shadows
under leaves: a million eight-eyed
spiders on the march.
The buckeyes beat themselves
half to death against
some lit-from-within screen.
“The Vision of Saint Augustine”
Beverley Bie Brahic
Carpaccio, San Giorgio degli Schiavoni, Venice
You are amazed to find trees in Venice —
To turn a corner into a campo
Where two or three rustling acacias
Spread their halo of leaves
Over two or three red-slatted benches.
It’s as if you had slipped through a curtained doorway
Into a hall full of dull gold scenes
By Carpaccio — a miraculous light —
Though the rio’s still shrouded in a mist
Compounded of water vapour and smog
So it’s not that the sun has come out, it’s
Something to do with the leaves and painting
In the realm of echoes where footsteps
Reverberate endlessly between two walls
And dawn is the chink of a stonemason
At his reparations, disembodied
Voices irresistible as bird calls.
Yes, you’re amazed to find trees in Venice
Shedding their gold leaf onto the pavement
Outside a secondhand bookstore.
It’s like Carpaccio’s little white dog
Wagging his tail at the feet of Saint Augustine
Who is staring out of the window
Looking for the voice of Saint Jerome.
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