The Bright Waterfall of Angels

Everywhere that summer there were angels,

hanging over lake piers deflated with prayer,

blowing like soap bubbles past night windows,

flying from the weekend-colored skirts

of young girls. In August, under the full

moon, I walked Oakland Ave., and a night

bus, windows burning yellow with angels, passed.

And still, I could see people praying for more

bird angels, drug angels, kaiser roll angels, money

angels, love angels, health angels, rain angels.

There were angels in movie houses and in sweet corn

stands, and angels who dropped like catalpa

snakes from summer. One angel followed

me into our Chang Cheng Restaurant. Where

were the angels that summer when the neighborhood

women were being hunted and ripped

open like field animals? Or when the man

who walked away from DePaul Rehab gave up

on my garage? When I came home from The Wizard

of Loneliness the Flight for Life

helicopter was landing in my front yard.

And a young man was leaning against my garage,

his throat an awful open clown smile.

Rivers and streams of dark blood

ran down the alley. All the children

awakened by the helicopter ran barefoot

and cartoon-pajamed through the actual

blood and night. Mary,

the neighborhood nurse, kept telling

everyone there was a murderer loose.

“No one could do that much damage to themselves.

I'm a nurse, I'm telling you that no one could

do that much damage to themself.”

And the police, and firefighters, and pilot,

and attendants, their rubber gloved hands filled

with the moon, and someone held up the knife

the man had used on himself. Off they rolled

him on a cot into the helicopter.

When they took off lighted and loud into the midnight

sky, I saw angels of despair, windfull

and spinning happy on the helicopter blades.

There were angels who wrote their names on leaves,

and show-offs who rode August's tornados.

Nights the sky was often a thunder of angels,

a heat lightning sky, where angel wings fit

together in crossword puzzle perfection.

At the State Fair that August, the great

chefs of Wisconsin came to convince the world

of the superior beauty of carved cheese over carved

ice for table centerpieces, and although originally

they had come planning to carve cows and swans,

always the cheddar blocks turned to the gold

cheesy beauty of angels. Angels hid

behind apples, behind goldfinches, hid in foot-high

Mexican stuffed toads who stood forever on

their back legs, their front legs shellacked forever

into playing red-painted concertinas.

And if someone would have come to you as many

years as you are old ago, and told you:

You will be slapped around, a man will cut your

mouth open, only because he says he loves you,

and you will have to give up lovers, before they are,

and children before they are yours;

friends will call you from sexual assault centers

and their stitched-together voices will tell you

things done to them that you will never be able to forget.

Some friends you will bury and children and parents, too.

(Your mother will breathe flowers from her grave;

your father will snore.) Your body's skin and bones

will cartwheel around you, tilt-a-whirl around you

until you are nauseous and dizzy and uncertain.

The money angel will never like you; often

you will sleep with razor blades. Often

you will fall out of the trap door of yourself

and have to climb back up and start over, and

sometimes angels will help and often they won't,

and you can never count on either. And if someone

had come to you, as many years ago as you are old

right now, and told you all this, and more,

would you sign up for the bright waterfall of angels?

Would you be silent? Would you whisper, or shout:

Bring on the tour, the bright waterfall of angels tour?