Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Band of Angels

I like birds because they remind me of certain angels I have known. My favorite angel was Michael - dark, beautiful Michael - whose feathers were always a bit oily and unkempt. He had a long, straight nose and a quirky smile, and eyes that burned red-brown like Georgia soil in summer. He was quick and muscular and built as much like a racehorse as an angel can be. Whenever he returned from his travels on earth he'd bring me souvenirs of rocks or leaves or flowers. Then we'd race each other along the golden river (he always let me win) and across the water to the big rock island that sleeps in the middle. It was there I'd spend eons preening his wing feathers and listening, rapt, to his war stories and the occasional bawdy joke. Sometimes he smelled of whisky. If Michael had been born on earth he would've been Irish. I loved him the most.

There was Raphael, that shining angel of death, who enjoyed his occupation more than anyone. He was a practical jokester who could convince the minor angels that not even they were immune to his power, and so he would bring them lambs blood to smear over their doorways at night, in exchange for cigarettes. His favorites were Lucky Strikes, and it was always amusing to watch the lesser angels reappear suddenly in the heavens, girded with tobacco.

Of all the archangels, Gabriel was the most beautiful. He looked like John Schneider at 18, only more golden. And his eyes were not only blue - they were that blue you have seen only once in your lifetime - remember it? That blue. The one that made you stand in quiet awe until some shift of light stole it away. To look into Gabriel's eyes was to no longer thirst; to be in his presence was paradise.

When Michael and the other warrior angels were away, I'd listen to Israfel play his flute. Israfel rarely spoke except through his music, and we had between us a quiet understanding. His hair was curly and blonde, soft as a toddler's, and sometimes when he slept I ran my fingers through the silk of it. With his flute he created the sweetest of songs, a keening and a longing, a melancholy lilting that was like the wings of hummingbirds lightly brushing a thousand silver windchimes.

And among them all, my friends, my angels, not one of them warned me that being human would hurt so much. If I had known, I would never have left the sheltering love of their wings.

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