The Recording Angel
Sculpture by Lorado Taft (1923), Forest Mound Cemetery, Waupun, Wisconsin
The Recording Angel descended with no quill,
no well, nor ink; had written nothing in the book
splayed on her broad lap, a tome held open
like the wings of a dove she meant to lift skyward
in the thunder-clapped moment just before she was
pinioned to stone. The Recording Angel had not inclined
toward the east or the west to eavesdrop voices
that hummed like a chorus of one-hundred-thousand
honeybees set loose in a field dense with clover.
The Recording Angel had closed her eyes.
She had lifted her chin toward leaves that flickered
above and around her like an exaltation of larks.
She had declared a flagrant dereliction
despite the wrath she’d surely invoke from the one
whose voice shook the polished halls of paradise,
despite the knowledge it would earn for her,
as it had Lot’s transfixed and glittering wife,
the cold restraint of a madman’s hand.
And whether salt or bronze is of no consequence,
each being the stiff price a woman paid to bear witness--
one who turned from sanctuary to keep watch
with the city she loved, sheathed in flames;
the other who chose this aching blue planet,
who chose us, whose tongues proclaim no gospel but desire.