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  • “Actual Angels” and Other Poems
  • Peter Cole


“And Jacob sent messengers” (Gen. 32:4);

Rashi stated, “actual angels.”


Are angels evasions of actuality?Bright denials of our mortality?Or more like letters linking wordsto worlds these heralds help us see? [End Page 549]


It’s the freighted angels that elevate.Opaque with their burdens, they wait

for someone to sense what’s there, between,until they’re released to the weather again.


Gone is the griffin, the phoenix, the faun.Only angels in the poem live on

as characters catching the light between things,as carriers of currents from the wings

of thinking we know where we’re going and thengetting somewhere, despite our intention.


Maybe an angel’s confused with an angleso often because the slip lays baresomething these envoys are trying to tell us—that what we’re missing is already there.


The light off of the Sound this morningis like the sound of the morning’s light—a high-pitched, crisp, silvery ping,though not of burnished wings, touching.


Angels also act like classics—tilting us toward the oddly real,as with the crust of their reputation,they block off access to it as well. [End Page 550]


How is it that creatures with names like Anáfiel,Shakdehúziah, Azbúgah, and Yófi’elcould possess the power to raise a personup to a Temple-within from his Hell?


Angels are letters, says Abulafia,in us like mind as the present’s hum.No one knows what a year will bring,but the world-to-come is the word to come.


Angels anchor, like poles to being,stretching the tent of a self’s visionbeyond what it, doubtlessly, would have beenwithout that dent-and-inflection toward heaven.


He faces the Eden history is sweepinghim out of with a wind so relentlesseternity’s storm pins back the wingshe’s raising to break his curious progress.

The future to which he’s backing inbrightens the rubble of what might have been.


Messenger RNA is ephemeral—like an angel, dispersed through a cell.

After translating coded instructionsthat activate certain somatic functions,

it passes like prayer out of existence,thus ensuring its own persistence. [End Page 551]


Borges likens his Aleph to Ezekiel’sfour-faced cherubs facing at onceevery direction — something conceivableas well in the circuits of a quatrain’s hunch.


The elm slides liquid leaves through its sleeves—its twig-tips swell with a ruby-like glow;seraphs of jade then crown this mage,their wings spreading the shade we know.


Then the angels appeared to appearto the skeptic in his suspicion of whathovered beyond the sight or thoughthe’d hoped would make his position clear.

But there he was, suddenly estrangedfrom who he assumed he’d always be—that gap drawing him into an obliquityof being those legates had just rearranged.


Whether the weather is also an angelor only what makes one palpabletakes us beyond the scope of our knowingwhere time, in fact, could never tell.


An angel-like body about our bonesbinds us to the luminous formof the King-on-High’s Presence below—its skin the secret spelling of his name.

Thus a Kabbalist, in the fourteenth century,weirdly as though he were speaking to me. [End Page 552]


We’re getting closer to understandinghow angels slip inspiration by us:science shows its wing-like spikes inthe superior interior temporal gyrus.


It’s an endless battle for the angel, said the scroll—now against coarseness, now against light:and radiance lines a mind’s darkness,as baseness defines a kind of height.


Enoch ascended to heaven and sawseraphs posted at fiery stations,encircling i-am’s Palace of Awe.All this — by means of translation.


What the day is spelling outrecalls, in its way, revealed scriptureconcealing the real, as the Psalmist says:He turns the wind into his messenger. [End Page 553...


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pp. 549-561
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