Meryl Stratford
To the Guardian Angels

                                         after Rilke

There’s so much I don’t understand about you—
In a German film, Wings of Desire,
two angels wander through post-war Berlin, observing
and making notes. They see everything
in black and white, hear what people are thinking.
One of them falls in love with a beautiful

trapeze artist and takes the plunge into now,

now instead of forever, waking with a wound
on his forehead, discovering the taste of coffee,
seeing colourful graffiti on that famous wall.

For someone who doesn’t believe in angels, I have
quite a collection—an angel on the cover of my notebook,
angels on my chair cushion and hanging over my desk,
a needle-point angel, a letter-box angel,

a beaded angel on my evergreen.

The nuns told us everyone has an angel.
There was a picture on our classroom wall—
two children, a boy and a girl, crossing a rickety bridge,
and an angel following like a celestial body-guard.
Is there one among you who remembers my childhood?
All those hours in the classroom—didn’t you get bored?
And did you enjoy the mornings we sang in the choir?
We sounded nothing like angels.
An angel’s perfection can be terrifying.
It reminds us how far from perfect we are.
Was it just good luck I escaped that burning house,
avoided a car crash, survived the storm at sea?
If I prayed to you now, would you listen?