Articles/Essays – Volume 56, No. 1

Collect for a Family Friend Killed in a Sabbath Morning House Fire

Listen the Out Loud version of this poem here.

O, preening angels, voyeurs
of bright and burning things,

of underbuilding flare-ups and
flaming caved-in tinder, whose

breathing—plumed, infernal,
unforgiving—sweltered her last

daybreak with unholy invocation—
Please, if mercy be, if prayers

hurled—frenzied—Godward in
the heat of grieving

grace what’s passed, please
have taken her before she fell

from sleep, please, while
fever-dreams beatified

her mind’s cathedral, dousing it
with overtonal eager aching psalms,

best-known language of her flesh
billowing one last time from her

congregation choir, their notes
astray and breaking and, yet,

soaring beyond her organ, her awe,
please, that her leaving might have been

more requiem than torment—
For you are delirium and ecstasy,

the scald of endorphins
praising rapture and release—


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