It’s a pain getting angels to fight.
Hand out swords made of flame, and they pair
off to fence. Give them bomb-making recipes,
and they bring you a cake with a peace sign
in napalm icing.
_________They made much of the form
of their death strokes. As if it were tennis
they asked me for lessons. They stalled,
though not out of cowardice. Running my obstacle course
they poked ballet toes through the tires,
testing the waters of war and declaring
them too cold.
_________As the battle approached
they had problems with everything, even the plans
I had drawn. They insisted our troop movements trace
a predictable rose, or at least
spell excelsior, lvx, or invictvs in boot prints,
as if Lucifer didn’t know Latin. Let them
take the high ground, they sniffed. We fight fair.
Any battlefield ought to be level.
________My angels were soft.
They were friends with the rebels who marched
on them. Shoulder to shoulder they’d sung in the choir,
or whatever it is the civilian angels do
during peacetime. It’s a miracle we
won the day. All that talking of theirs,
those discussions! I listened in once, while they sat
dotting decorative galaxies over their shields.
How can angels, immortal ones, fight to the death?
When the fallen were good, they were deathless; does this
mean that evil is deathless now, too?
All that thinking does soldiers no good.
Does no good to morale in a camp, in a season for war.
____Somehow we triumphed. The Lord, overjoyed,
had me wave from the balcony, next to him. Later,
on the throne with a wine glass, he praised me
for discovering good little killers inside
of those golden androgynous boys.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.