The Need for an Angel
frau haeneli, from fulda
“My hand is moved by holy angels
The life we are in is invisible
(Jack Kerouac, 8th chorus, Ferrara Medellin Blues)
On the day exactly a week after the storm ripped through the country i set out to see if the Higgins’ old cottage had survived… whereas
– “Days and months being travellers of eternity”… (Basho writes)… and likewise
– “many of the men of old who met their end upon the road”…
but… i, being a new man (yet recently old) set out then on the road in the wake of the storm after a sleepless night waiting on the rain to pass…
Not winter yet
still the morning embraces death
like a mother would cling to her child
in a shipwreck…
The road empty but for leaves and the debris the storm had abandoned that no one had bothered to clear…
– “For those who pass their lives afloat on boats, or face old age
leading horses tight by the bridle, their journeying is life, their
journeying is home…” (Matsuo Basho again).
Behold!.. then, In the drunk-damp dark and among its restless shadows – the voice of an angel wakes in my head; O, yes, in among the other noises that daily threaten to break each day open with their deep and inner pain like a demented machine grinding its sexless way through the dark to lose itself, gratefully, into deep wet earth beneath…
The voice of an angel…
Only an angel with wings bound tight and lips crafted in an agony of suspense that anyone could live in this depressing place and time, this life rented by the day or sold like a carcass to the highest bidder in a cattle market where no one can distinguish between human and animal…history, the butcher!
Because of this (as if despair was a common disease) and for no other reason (like all who get lost on the road) i listen for her voice, this voice, the voice – of an angel (voice in search of Truth and Hope without a price here on its head, voice only heard in the stillness when the stock markets crash and even the bomb has lost its many twisted tongues of terror)…
…so in this prayer-less world (of commodities, of assets, of profit & power – this pornographic world) there’s no other sound that can survive the cat-call of money, the hiss of pure venom that holds neighbour to neighbour together in a bond of pure contempt, like the scream in agony of a child being beaten or the screech of ugliness of an animal brutalised…
Here in a country where the simple murder of a life is as effortless as leaves slipping from the branches of a tree?..
“But I stopped to think / The angel don’t care / Nine feet tall
/ Beside the wall / Wants me cut out / To do the rub out”
(Jack Kerouac , 9th chorus, Cerrada Meddellin Blues)
And so – i hear the spirit whisper or rather its annunciation –
“But since there’s an infinite amount of angels, / and Infinite ends in
no’s,’ / it must be one angel,”
(Jack Kerouac, 39th chorus, Orlando Blues)
– in surprise, cry out and can hear her soft lament in a time and a language of desire where across an invisible border all other people travel at 100 miles an hour down endless corridors of grey cement…ignorant, without wings, without a prayer and with no belief other than an itch or a chequebook or a curse…
The angel sighs.
And so eases soft whispering sounds (not quite music and not conversation) between the shadows, these gaps (the cracks between our different worlds) leave when nothing else works …and despair has set the clock ticking like a bomb waiting to explode
O, live each moment of your life…
love, love each moment of this your living
(even as it flies by)
…could be…in translation.
On every street corner when i was growing up there was a thug with a fist tight with brutality and a face twisted with malice
“Little boys are angels / Crying in the street / Wear funny hats / Wait for green lights…”
(42 Chorus, San Francisco Blues, Jack Kerouac).
On a packed train recently i saw the same look under a baseball cap that happened to be 6 feet tall and comfortable in a cold stare that didn’t understand that in our mortal and so imperfect world to inflict pain is also to run the risk of suffering pain, cause and effect… Or the law in this jungle we find ourselves trapped in for want of the dream of our grandfathers’ dream of a better world…
The solitude, you see, is filled with these ghosts…
And so the world goes around in circles chasing its own tail and the more that changes the more that stays the same. And the only place in the world (or out of it maybe)…where an angel is safe is in a child’s company, (this child that has little to do with age).
A real child (one who is not a false child) is ageless…
lives deep within the warmth
of eyes and smiles often.
Angels are safe here…
Angels who are like
the brothers and sisters
we never had
whose loss we grieve
even without knowing it
…and the child:
“When a child acts, he acts in accordance with a truth that may not be seen or held, but which is present to him as a vision is present. And his act is then an expression of his being, not the mandate of a need to become anything other than what he is already.” My friend writes…
(Charles Haldeman, in the Left Panel of his Aphelion, The Sun’s Attendant – page 52)…
At the end of the metal rails, the tram, at the end of the tracks, a train, the train stands there, waiting then, while we line up, like all those sentenced to death, waiting also.
I boarded the train, one in a line, all anonymous and soon to be forgotten, this train the dream told me I would miss, wandering more awake than asleep lost down empty streets where the people who passed said nothing and not a single one of them I knew.
Another story of endless lives, one more forsaken than the other…
So, with a sigh,
this voice of an angel
the soft sad murmuring lilt
of an unearthly voice
Everything will be alright
it will all be okay In the end
even though there is no end
world without end
world following world.
…Round and round it all goes, one after the other…Life after life after life, season following season, birth following death, all now singing the same soft sad song this half sung half silent murmuring song of an angel who travels silently among ghosts, who comes when there is no one left…
And so, some of us, heartbroken beyond despair survive; only to sing…
Or wait – to hear the song
This song of our homecoming.
“Für Frieden und Sozialismus seid bereit – Immer bereit”
(“For peace and socialism be ready – always ready”)
She wakes early in Mühlhausen (Frau Silvia)….where Bach’s fingerless ghost still plays the organ trying to figure out the border between happiness and pain…she wakes, this young and soon to be ex-pioneer for the cause. Wakes early and gets ready for the day ahead.
In towns and bathrooms all over the world
at 5 am at 6 am at 7 am
people are getting ready.
But they don’t know why, the what-for of their
determination, the force to live, to work like a
People are staring into the bathroom mirror. Staring at the silence that stares back at them.
She walks the length of the apartment herself to reach the bathroom mirror. Each person (either born in despair or who met it like a stranger encountered on a lonely road) is given one moment each day to wait for, to summon, the voice of an angel to tell them
“It will all be alright”
Before the war begins
(or continues, or escalates)
before it gets worse
before the unbearable
before it all
burns burns burns
like this city on fire
In these rooms we rent
these bedsitters of our own Body
She’s waiting for the angel to speak…
“God! be kind! / Free all your dedicate
angels, / for me”
(Jack Kerouac, 69 Chorus, Orizabda Blues 210)
All of murdered Ernst Thalmann’s pioneers must have had their own special angel to protect them
…from the thugs of the SS or the Stasi, the fear and fanaticism of both friend and foe, the downfall of the comrades, the tragedy of a human history that even Marx knew had not yet been inaugurated, despite the endless convulsions, the impossible birth-pangs, the bottomless pain. Despite the wretched and useless bureaucracy of it all
…to protect them from the impossible
of the ton ton macoutes
of the Gestapo
of the Heavy Gang
of this endless list of louts (history itself,
no more than a lout)
this endless inventory of hired bullies.
It is as if we all must wake like this – O, workers of the world: wake up!
So i’m walking the tracks at 5am in the dull damp bewildered day without a light to show for itself while she stares at the bathroom mirror and what the world in its endless irreparable immeasurable enormous distances has in common could be, should be, slipped safely into the voice of an angel, this calm quiet spirit who holds all our dreams like children under its wings, it’s androgynous glorious wings, its simple blessing of wings taking flight
to be in 2 places at once
two people in the same body
two sides of a coin
two dilemmas in a
must be the end of the dialectic
so maybe that’s what it’s like to be or rather to fall – in love – at the end of a life – not its beginning. An illusion? No more than any other empire built on sand and people’s bones, on people’s dreams, on the people, the proletariat’s dreams! These secrets of the proletariat. It’s cunning and sabotage of the workers with two faces. Left. Right. Right-Left. (As if there was a difference in the end?)
Streets emptying themselves of workers. From factories. From offices. From hospitals. From the ghettos and the sewers of civilization and still in my heart
there’s this inner voice
there is this dream of redemption
there is the promise – of Liberation!
And there is this voice of an angel where no nurturing (nor un-nurturing parent) ever set foot.
There is the small bird stopping in the snow in the Gulag or on the death march to the desert or the camps. There is always a voice of hope. For those who are in need. Those who can no longer – those who will no longer bear their lives in the world of the market, this abattoir for the soul…
The voice of an angel, your voice. Your hesitation your words slipping singly past the sentry, your voice my arms stretched wide as wide as an ocean as wide as distance itself, this distance between us, always, into infinity..!
So I am alone.
…for the first time always as if for the first time.
Like this to look in the mirror while so far away
she walks the length of the apartment to stand alone at the bathroom mirror when all hope has been extinguished. Like oxygen from the universe
when everyone has left
when the ghetto has been silenced
when the bombs stop falling
when it is all almost all over.
Breakfast or war, the waiter in this cafe just opening, asks?
Breakfast or the savage Horsemen (of the Apocalypse)?
The train pulling out of the station now reminding us all
of the other trains (the ones to the Death Camps).
The ones going Nowhere
(as if anyone else was going Somewhere).
The whistle blows.
Then is the moment to hear
suddenly in its silence the voice of an angel.
And here another voice calls me on the machine
“I would describe myself as:
pissed. no sorry, I mean lovely person.
My ideal partner would be:
an Angel? no, that’s ridiculous
My ideal date would be:
walking on the clouds”
She says to me…
“When I read your lines I get the impression
that you like to dream a lot. But that had
made the Irish nation so mystical.”
“I really think you would like to have wings.
It is nice to watch those who have wings.
But for the birds, life isn`t easy too.
But I don`t think they dream of something
different. Good teachers for us. Hihihihihi”
And i have no answer…
“I would not be a good teacher for you.
The prison of Body. Yes, it keeps us
in the circle of earthly life.
There is no way out. Only dreams and
imaginations let us forget reality for
don`t want wings. I want to be a wizard.”
Nothing to say that the heart had not already
“Oh, how much I would like to be free.
But, how can it be, knowing there are
so many creatures suffer under the
human’s way of life.
Never ever I will have a chance to be
really happy, filled with love and laughter.
Every day my heart is bleeding over it.
I want freedom for everyone.
One only can never be free.
In my idle moments now and again I dream
Then she is gone.
Between one footfall and the next …
Lost, like leaves in amid the whispering
Gone for ever. Gone. Back. Into the silence.
And so it is morning again for the umpteenth time…
“The spirits of the road beckoned me, and I could not concentrate on anything.”
Basho wrote (even dead 400 years…1644 – 1694… No matter!)…
This must be the time the way the significance to leave home to leave this worst of illusions behind…to be orphan and bastard…to be of no tribe, no race, no gang…to be the future nonetheless…
So I spoke.
I said to her:
…Oh, and thinking of your lament much later
in the night…
it dawned on me, yes, that is why
I want to have wings…
fly way above the darkness and the cruelty
fly far away from it…
but you are right…
“…freedom must be for everyone…”
“i have painted your words on a flag
and now they fly high over this house
of my mind
where freedom is a symphony
we will all compose
one day…one day!”
And so it was the first of the month, the second month of Autumn…the year the storm ripped trees from their roots and people out of this life, innocent people though we all know by now…
no one is innocent…
She wrote again
The lament of life.
Not over me own!
Once, if you feel
unity to those who
can`t defend and
suffer under the
To mention an obvious
fact is a duty.”
“How to fly away from
the darkness and cruelty?
May be not working.
May be wings unplanned
May be wings are there
for to reply damnation.”
“For you, My Soul, I wish
wings and power, not to
teach, just to be
Oh, yes! For you, My Soul, I wish wings and power, not to
teach, just to be illuminated!
Whitman himself wrote similar
“Be not dishearten’d,
affection shall solve the problems of freedom yet,
Those who love each other shall become invincible”
(Whitman this stranger some of us knew so well):
But now she writes…I send this message back. A message? More an ache. A longing. A loneliness. Immeasurable. Enormous.
“May be wings are there
for to reply damnation”
“Wings are for many
We can fly away
We can fly towards..
wings are to take us to the place
where we can understand…”
She said again (even though I had almost heard her)
in other words:
“For you, My Soul, I wish
wings and power, not to
teach, just to be
What is it?
Is it to see,
how brutal our life is?
What way to go not to be
like that anymore?
Be completely on your own?
Find yourself if possible.
Is it possible?
Who am I?
What am I?
Part of a cruelty life?
Part of a wonderful planet?
Put your arms around the glob(e)
and crush it.”
O, please, please, put your arms – around this globe – and crush it.
Please. And Farewell.
Words and how she asks so many questions…
(to be a woman is to be born in the womb of a question)
…cool, so she says, whispering in this empty space where we will never meet… while all around I can hear the wind of many wings whistling softly like a storm building… winds – so many winds almost too many almost they have replaced the bullets and the knives of the assassins the lies of politicians the dreams of revolutionaries the complaints of the workers….
Wind is the mouth of solitude, the background hum to a universe of loneliness, at least here, where the trains pulls in…
She writes to me (I’m standing in front of the mirror in the bathroom”).
So is she in a different Time Zone, [“Now he has departed from this strange world a little ahead of me. That means nothing. People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” Einstein wrote to Michele Angelo Besso’s family) a different world even
Here is what she write, Fraulein S— (Pioneer)
“Who is Marx … Just a man…There will always be people who are lingering to get power. Today the simple worker … give him some power, he becomes the greatest exploiter, only to enrich himself…. because I am sick of the pioneers. We can only change something for ourselves! People are opportunists. If it is favorable, they keep their flag in the wind. I have experienced it after the fall of the Berlin Wall. You can only break your own locks! Only your own!”
And so the Revolution ends.
Even if the War (The First – The Second – The Third – The Fourth) is endless,
comrade, my comrade (commandante!)
As for me
I am amazed by these h uman words
the ones that have entered the pain so fully
that they almost give birth to meaning
while all around them
The rest, les autres –
fall like black cinders
already dead on their feet!
How terrible then,
we have tormented language in our work of hurting each other.
How surprised no one is that:
no one – does not – “give a fuck” –
“only a fool looks for meaning”
(the teachers tried to teach me; luckily i was too stupid to learn, and so my spirit survived, if not this poor heart…)
Only a fool…
…Reading the shadows…Words are like dead men in your mouth.
But beyond words – this – ?
the train tracks at 5am
the dull rain s/wept concrete
with your collar pulled tight
against the wind
the pain in your gut
your bladder ready to explode
The world is wet as fuck then I hear her angel’s voice
I am woken
It is all pain –
“am nothing”, Brecht wrote at the end…
Can be wrong with me if I myself
– wrote for those of us not beginning but somehow lost somewhere in the middle)
– and not-pain at the same time.
I wake. I rise. I stare in the mirror.
She wakes. She rises.
Even still, we are all alone in our separate universes. Each one of us while longing not to be born yet still waiting on birth (like a spirit child maybe)
waiting for a word a wish a whisper, a promise.
It is this and this only and nothing else…
Nothing else may beckon an angel from its rest.
We will be born again.
Like Jack, or Berthold, or Charles…
This lie is not the last word.
Though they have killed every messenger, the world is waking up.
The world is the message.
Even if we sleep someone wakes.
Somewhere someone is always waking.
It is Someone’s time – to stare in the mirror.
(Maybe it is yours?)
All these voices, the voice of friends not born yet,
Of comrades, voices of sisters, or brothers, compañeras,
saying it has not – all – been sold yet
And Basho says: “The one leaving in grief, the one remaining with
deep regret, like two lapwings parting, lost in clouds…”
And Charles Haldeman says: “Open the door… one time it will be
– your angel.”
And Brecht has said: “The wind, which was very cold / Turned into
the singing of angels.”
And H in her hideout in Fulda: “I want freedom for everyone.
One only can never be free.
In my idle moments now and again I dream
And Sylvia in Leipzig, in Berlin, grandchild of the birth-pang called Weimar: “My father also said to me, it is not important whether you are nice to your boss, it is important whether you are friendly to the cleaning woman.”
All voices, all woken by the wings of an angel
the soft murmuring whispers of wings overhead
There are still trees in this friendless forest
Still lives kindness even where cruelty is king
“I had lived so long, to see the revelation of communism’s practice, and the world’s rejection of communism, and it’s return to the free marketing of goods and people, like ancient times. I had lived too long. Already the streets everywhere were dangerous, like ancient times, as people turned back to prey and predator, the commands and imperatives of the jungle, as if this were all that the economic science, or all science, any science, could teach us…”
Niall writes, from ship to land (his welcome to gomorrah, Niall Quinn, page 28)
There’s the wind slipping from her wings.
“One day. One day.”
When the storm has ripped its way through the bones
through flesh through the lungs and liver of the liars
and the bullies
when the camps have been closed
the corpse forgiven
when hunger has finally been drowned in tears
when murder is no longer available for hire or for rent
when lies are left speechless
when each day is a miracle among the different beings,
among birds, between insects, in sunlight, in shadow, with or without this sorrow we have inherited, this one, here,
the one we have already passed on to our children, our lovers,
these creatures that surround us in our misery and our joy…
One day, one day like today
This angel who comes to me in the dark
sings “one day!”
The song of the prisoner.
The song of the condemned woman.
For all these dull dead men in their grey suits whose whips beat us senseless there is an angel to wake us, before dawn, between one footfall here and the next, before day breaks, on these damp drunk tram tracks heading towards winter walking head bent to the sound the song the voice of free men and free women whose hearts and dreams are the lungs of the world
We will be free!
(As if Matsuo Bashō, or Niall, or Charles, or Jack, or Berthold still walked among us, could still talk)
“It’s okay, girl, we’ll make it
Till the sun goes down forever
And until then what you got
But the losing? We’re fallen
Who didnt believe
That nothing means nothing.”
(Jack Kerouac 8th Chorus Desolation Blues).
Dublin 24-10 – 29/10 2017
May, 8, 2018, James Street and Rathmines
May 9th, 2018 Ballyogan 1am…
August 17, 2018, Ballyogan 10.35pm
Agust 25, 4.15 am City Centre
September 22, Ballyogan
September, 29 City & Ballyogan
Final Draft, December 18, 2018, Ballyogan (in the company of Shi-teh)
Later Silvia wrote:
“And Luther was an opportunist. He wanted reforms, but the rich should continue to rule the poor. The role of the poor was to serve the role of the rich. He read that from the Bible. Thomas Müntzer, also a reformer, said all are equal. Luther has distanced himself from Müntzer, hated him. So much to the great reformer Martin Luther. All made only by people, used by people, the religion.”
Which reminded me that Marx, himself, shuffling like a shadow between the many beautiful women in his book-weary house remembered himself that:
“Das religiöse Elend ist in einem der Ausdruck des wirklichen Elendes und in einem die Protestation gegen das wirkliche Elend. Die Religion ist der Seufzer der bedrängten Kreatur, das Gemüth einer herzlosen Welt, wie sie der Geist geistloser Zustände ist. Sie ist das Opium des Volks
Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people”.
“falling sick on a journey / my dream goes wandering / over a field of dried grass” (Basho, on his death-bed, 1694)
Though the storm passed, Mike Higgins’ old cottage survived, though two trees had fallen, at the edge of the forest, near the boundary…
…and no one had heard them fall.
Séamas Carraher was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1956. He lives on the Ballyogan estate, in south County Dublin, Ireland, at present. Recent publications include poems in Bone Orchard Poetry, Istanbul Literary Review and Pemmican. Previously his work has been published in Left Curve (No. 13, 14 & 20), Compages, Poetry Ireland Review, and the Anthology of Irish Poetry.
Cover image: Hugo Simberg’s The Wounded Angel