He is, I think, his own angel, or mine,
not winged or gifted with a voice of annunciation—
Blessed are you of all—or wielding a double-edged sword
cleaving evil from the earth’s right angles,
but rather a shuffle, stooped and soft-featured
as the light from our campus lampposts,
their globes a quiet amber behind beveled glass,
snowflakes the breadth of a mother’s palm
blessing this night, students and faculty
dispersed to their homes for the coming birth,
long awaited, the child to save us all.
I am still here, and Wrangler—wolf dog
or roused-from-winter-sleep bear—
walking this landscape I have come to love,
adoration earned through thirty-three years
of Let there be light and Now I lay me down,
missing colleagues and students—
tendered mercies arrayed beneath each lamppost,
beacons in the soft night, star-bright, a hillside
of huddled sheep, Bethlehem silent from this distance.
I am no shepherd and Wrangler more likely to
rend the flock than defend it, but Daniel has come
to ask if I remember him happy, printing with large letters
his poems, one hour or more per joyful line
of angels’ syntax, the language of pre-birth, vestige of
sounds remembered in infancy then lost until
half his brain is taken at fifteen following
a motorcycle incident. Daniel almost sings
his grunting laugh when I say yes of course I remember.
And he overjoys with words coherent as any angel
speaking to earth dwellers hearing and seeing through
the glass, darkly. He has written on scraps of paper—
the margins of pages torn from discarded magazines,
the backs of envelopes folded in the pockets
of his trousers—his best poem. And who better than I
to hear it if only it can be pieced together, found lines
Daniel needs to share if only his meds permit,
having already allowed him to locate the bus pass
his counselor promised if Daniel kept his appointment
and ate his one balanced meal provided with directions
to where I am dying, Daniel knows, to hear the poem,
sounded out syllable by syllable as if following his finger
across the puzzle of alphabetic runes, this poem, his best.
And Wrangler does not bare his teeth, those long incisors,
but lies down, yes, at Daniel’s feet, and this time
I did not tell Daniel no one is home, he mustn’t try
to come to campus, empty now, almost. This time
I am waiting on the concrete bench, attentive,
as the snow gathers in Daniel’s hair and on his shoulders,
and he lifts from one pocket after another his words
of greeting—Fear not. I bring good tidings.
To all people, great joy.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.