13 Ways of Angels [poem] by Scott Owens


“It had wings,” she said,
her eyes too wide not to be believed.
“It had wings and had Daddy
by the throat.” Her mouth wouldn’t stop.
“I was afraid to touch him, the way
I’m always afraid to touch him,
the way he always touches me.”

The first thing he saw
as he ran towards where
the shots came from
was the angelic smile
of the two-year old
reaching up to him
from where she stood
over the sprinkler, diaper
sagging, wrinkled body
glistening with water.

Warm sand on my back,
sound of surf sorting the day,
lapping water from your ear and chin,
sucking the salt from your shoulder,
you rise above me,
the moon’s halo behind your head.

Walking by the hospital I see,
or imagine I see, faces drawn
in every window, eyes uplifted
or closed, mouths shut on empty shells
of words, shadows moving
like uncertain hands on worn out clocks.

The angel on my shoulder
is mute as stone and nowhere
near as heavy. In fact, I’d think,
she might have drifted away
if not for the constant smell of cinnamon.

Please excuse this spastic flight
of adolescence. 17 years
in the making of this crawdad
body clinging to trees,
stumbling overhead, flying
into nets of hair.
What can you expect for charity?

I see them everywhere,
Tooker’s paranoiac of the stairway,
haloed head, frightened eyes,
angel afraid of ascent.

Cemetery angels with stone wings
hover above the dead,
unable to lift even themselves
from the ground they belong to.

When the faces fade
the diabolical chair stands empty,
the sky sits on broad shoulders of trees.
Abandoned by angels
we wait our turn out of the box.

Though he looks straight at me
I cannot see the angel’s eyes.

Moth or angel, muse of my sleep,
humming against the window,
wings beating out dreams until dawn.

The angel in the room
is fat and lazy and going nowhere,
Botticellean cherub
insuring only the remote’s
batteries live forever.

It is always so.
The wind blows against a window
and a light too bright to bear
goes out. All that follows
is a tragedy of crushed petals.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Author of 6 collections of poetry and over 800 poems published in journals and anthologies, Scott Owens is editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review, Vice President of the Poetry Council of North Carolina, and recipient of awards from the Pushcart Prize Anthology, the Academy of American Poets, the NC Writers’ Network, the NC Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of SC. He holds an MFA from UNC Greensboro and currently teaches at Catawba Valley Community College. He grew up on farms and in mill villages around Greenwood, SC. His most recent collection is For One Who Knows the Land.

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