When I was five and said I’d seen an angel,
They said it was the Phantom waiting for me
Because I rivaled him in ugliness.
Jealous, he was hiding in the angle
Of the shadow of my bedroom door;
Or he was standing in the upstairs hall,
Patient, silent, and invisible
To anyone he was waiting for.
That summer every night was filled with losses.
When I was sent upstairs alone to bed,
I stared on vacancies—long shadowed halls
With doors ajar, dark windows, distant voices.
Now that I’ve seen death’s ugliness,
Dyeing us in the many shades he takes,
I know I watched in awe, that sleep came on
From dark to darker emptiness,
While the voices down the stairs or up the hall
Talked on awhile, then paused, then stopped,
As the others too took their darkened beds
And the house unfolded upward from us all.
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 11 Number 5, on page 41
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