theparisreview:

Everything we’ve heard of heaven is true:Italian landscape hazy with the blushThat varnish takes above an egg-wash smear.Except the faces. Not like Leonardo’sWith the parted lips and golden hairBut like a child’s face, still grimy fromThe wagon train. In heaven everyone’sA reckless child: we choose the dead beforeThe living since their helplessness is ours,And only by great effort do we raiseA voice above the dark Ohio’s roar.Each night, hovering above the shapeThat heaves its perfect breaths, the handsUnclenching from an object, hard or soft,No less important for not being there,I make some useless gesture, smooth a blanket,Brush my lips against the dampened hair:This is the origin of angels, allOf providential history turning backTo our first parents, Adam’s fingers twistedIn a knot of grief above the silver corpseAs in The Death of Abel by Bonnat,Eve wondering, as I do every night,How it could be, with everything we knowOh heaven, that our children understandThe means and ends of suffering beforeTheir parents do. It’s when I’m on the vergeOf sleep myself that I can see the faces,Hear their voices as they scamper throughA backlit meadow, unaware of me.—James Longenbach, “The Origin of Angels”Photography Credit Marten Lange via Booooooom

theparisreview:

Everything we’ve heard of heaven is true:
Italian landscape hazy with the blush
That varnish takes above an egg-wash smear.
Except the faces. Not like Leonardo’s
With the parted lips and golden hair

But like a child’s face, still grimy from
The wagon train. In heaven everyone’s
A reckless child: we choose the dead before
The living since their helplessness is ours,
And only by great effort do we raise

A voice above the dark Ohio’s roar.
Each night, hovering above the shape
That heaves its perfect breaths, the hands
Unclenching from an object, hard or soft,
No less important for not being there,

I make some useless gesture, smooth a blanket,
Brush my lips against the dampened hair:
This is the origin of angels, all
Of providential history turning back
To our first parents, Adam’s fingers twisted

In a knot of grief above the silver corpse
As in The Death of Abel by Bonnat,
Eve wondering, as I do every night,
How it could be, with everything we know
Oh heaven, that our children understand

The means and ends of suffering before
Their parents do. It’s when I’m on the verge
Of sleep myself that I can see the faces,
Hear their voices as they scamper through
A backlit meadow, unaware of me.

James Longenbach, “The Origin of Angels”
Photography Credit Marten Lange via Booooooom

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