Versatile Angel by Michael Cole

He’s into his seventh century and on his thirteenth set of wings. Ashen gray frayed feathers. Leather straps cracked though he oils them every other week. Buckles rusted. He’s tired. Angels, I am told, don’t get sick, they just get tired. The affairs of humankind can be taxing and require a certain stamina which he no longer possesses. Putting on and taking off the contraption is even an effort. But for that major infraction of “taking the Lord’s name in vain,” he almost made it to Assistant to the Assistant to an Archangel. It seems a jumper on The Golden Gate got past him and the response, “Goddammit,” guaranteed him a job as a regular working stiff, a fill-in for those angels who call off. He knows he’ll never ascend to any of the positions in the first or second hierarchy. Those posts are already firmly established. Even Archangel in the third sphere is taken. He just wants some continuity. Messenger Angel is a fairly easy gig. Deliver then leave. Although Guardian Angel has its problems, safeguarding mortals from themselves and demons has its rewards. He would never aspire to Angel of Death. He’s heard about wars and epidemics and what they do to otherwise devoted angels. They’re known to mutter a lot and have sleep problems. Tonight he’ll lie in his bunk in the barracks and hope to dream again of sitting on a sun-drenched hillside. Soft wind-swept grasses whisper next to him. In the time it takes for an ant to climb over his foot, his wings drop off and he becomes pure light.


Michael Cole has recent work in Chariton Review, Harpur Palate, and Midwest Revew, and has published a co-translation of Finnish poet Pentti Saarikosk’s long poem, “Dances of the Obscure,” and two chapbooks.

Photo by Julian Hanslmaier on Unsplash

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