Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Poem by John Alter

The angels in heaven
those who wear pearls and
vintage blazers gossip in Latin and know that when you add the suffix
to a word it means full of when they heard
the good news of your arrival
it is reported exclaimed one to the other

good gracious
have mercy

The angels in heaven
those who love to walk
from one end to the other of their home town
& carry
in celestial bags all that a good day requires
when they heard the good news of your arrival

good gracious
have mercy

For us who remain here
with our forlorn dictionaries
with the streets of our home town that seem
less inhabited
who are clearly not angels
what remains to some measure is what
you taught us

love’s etymology
how by adding the prefix com-
to the word passion
you discover a compassionate universe
how by replacing the prefix con-
with trans- you discover
love’s transformative power

O our need remains also
for those angels who insist on wearing
even when the only task at hand is to
rake the fallen leaves who know what it means to
vir bonum semper discipilus est

--for Margaret Addicks

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