Thursday, 11 August 2011

Angels of Babel

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place!
this is none other but the house of God,                                 
and this is the gate of heaven.

– Genesis 28:17

I have assaulted Eden,
and wrestled with angels
beneath sweaty sheets
under the moon.

I have held my breath
and expelled great sighs.
Poetry has moved me.
Candlelight dancing on thighs
with each bobbling flame
has cut the barriers of time,
revealing depths and shadows
that made the world sublime.

Paradise came unexpected
in a kiss, in a whisper, in walks and philosophy.
For one to be part of two, to come again and again
together and apart, requires effort and will,
but Paradise is an oasis, a garden that protects,
that holds back the world without denying it,
and though I burn myself for you,
and you breathe incandescent for me,
there is always more, growing beyond our fires,
our hair in disarray and our bodies sweaty
and smelling of ecstasy and pain, and love.

You said “I love you,”
and I knew what you meant.

In every Paradise serpents crawl.
For what sins have I cast myself out?
The unwillingness to meet expectations I knew
but was unable to fulfill,
the all-too-many failings of flesh and breath.
My vision blurred.

I have walked the paths of Eden,
taken pleasure within her
and lain upon her silken grasses.
I have tasted also of good and evil,
and that fruit was sweetest, like honey
smeared upon my chin
forbidden by love and tasted in my kiss.

Call this poetry seduction,
call these words bricks,
and my tongue a mason
to build a tower that would reach heaven
and reclaim that Eden of my youth,
love that other desires set aside.

I wanted it to be said that angels ran unseen
up and down this edifice of words, this Babel of my tongue,
that time could run backwards, and I could believe
as I once had.

That Infernal Trinity of Id, Ego, and the oh-so-Holy Ghost
saw the women waiting to climb and descend,
those unchosen, unknown, or nonexistent fantasies,
those who danced along the edges of trembling sight,
and the Tower trembled, too.
Lust and desire shook it in an earthquake
of unrestrained longings.
Words faltered, and the masons fell silent.

I heard the angels singing
and the world broke into a thousand voices –
one million promises of one million Edens.
Your voice sang one prolonged note – 
sweet and pure and strong, and I remembered
innocence, or what I believed it to be –
and we were lost to the music.
Words shattered, the sounds I was building
cold wind through trees
hungry baby cries
endless water falling

“I love you,” you whispered.
What did it mean?
I returned empty noises that sounded like
“I love you,” but I meant
I have no power over angels,
and I cannot make love stay golden.

I have wrestled angels
and found comfort in their shadows,
but time leads on, and the angels remain
lost in the past,
their human shells holding memories
and bittersweet memories
of what we were.

copyright (c) 1999 and 2011 Daniel J. Bishop

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