21 April 2009

Barbara Ras

[from Barbara Ras's Bite Every Sorrow, Louisiana State, 1998]

Angels on Holiday

At first all they want is watermelon,
big bites, spitting out all the black seeds
while the red pulp melts in their mouths.
They eat it on the ground, their wings
resting moplike behind them, then they go on to rice,
eating it with their fingers, the grain's grain,
weddings' exuberance.
Sometimes they try sex, approaching it
the way you approach a strange dog. People
are too scary. They'd prefer statues
of their own kind, angel to angel clapping
the way a kid will click plastic horses together,
head to head, feet to feet, over and over.
It's a vacation, a chance to learn
small talk, use tools, play cards,
the ace of diamonds, their queen of spades, its red shape
pointing both ways, here today, gone tomorrow.
Angels are shy, especially about their wings, which so far
only God knows are crocheted and starched
like the extra-toilet-paper-roll creations in the bathrooms
of grandmothers. They try out our soap, the one for bodies
called Darling, and Terror, for big dirt, which they use
for excessive dreaming, needing to purge like they need to know
who else is working for God, the fire department,
the devil, the welders who make light a little too Promethean
for comfort, so they run off, go to the zoo in the rain
and watch monkeys run around and around their enclosure, inventing
chases the way the angels before they go home will make up
some more phrases to go into circulation,
flying off the handle, hope against hope, nose to the grindstone,
expressions none of us will get, but later
we'll think up meanings, serious ones, afraid our laughter
might scare something off, even the pigeons,
their feet, retractable forks,
tucked under them in flight.

Bite Every Sorrow

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