Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Questions About Angels: a poem by Billy Collins

Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.

No curiosity about they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding and boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.

Do the fly though God's body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and
forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?

What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?

If an angel fell off a cloud would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?

If an angel delivered the mail would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?

No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

8 comments:

Gannet Girl said...

You can probably guess where I first heard this poem...in a class on Ignatian spirituality, of course.

RevDrKate said...

Another beauty. And oh, how fun that it's poetry day on the blog. There's a good one over at Jan's,too.

RevDrKate said...

Sorry, that's Jan's

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

albeit not much of a poetry gal I really like this one!

and since you are on vacation if there's an Arby's near you... grab a 'mocha chill'... a little taste of vacation in a cup.... yum-o-licious!

mompriest said...

There happens to be an Arby's about a mile north...yum...the mocha chill sounds fab.

GG - too funny you first heard this in an Ignatian Spirituality class, such synchronicity floating around!

And, RevDrKate, Yes, I read Jan's poem shortly after I posted this one. I like hers a lot, too!

Jan said...

This is a new one for me, and I love it. Thank you.

Barbara B. said...

What a cool poem!!!

Diane said...

thanks for this. I love Billy Collins and will be back a little later to read more!

I will with God's help....uncomplicating the complicated

I was baptized when I was nine years old. I have vivid memories of the baptism itself, of being terrified, as I was fully immersed three ti...