Simon Marmion, A Choir of Angels, ca. 1459

A Choir of Angels: From Left Hand Shutter
The angels, suspended in the sky, float on wings shaped like bats’ wings.
Creatures of the dark, perhaps, or bearers of light or song, where dark seeps in.
There should be light and stars,
and wide-opened eyes
on upturned faces. Even the angels’ eyes squint,
as if the light of flash obscures their vision.

Think of the long fingerbones, stretched skin taut
like the membrane of an umbrella,
and the wing, all sinew and bone, creating lift.
With each wing beat, a breath.

And yet the velvet pastel robes, in A Choir of Angels,
curl like mermaid fins, or like the feet of bats
which can neither stand nor bear weight.

Creatures of the dark, creatures of the deep,
dark of cave and ocean trough.
Choirs of bats sing
and let their voices ring and echo.

Think of the bats entering their grotto
to hang suspended from a rafter
to feed their young milk.
As if the angels are saying:
this world, and everything you know about it,
will be turned upside down.
How eternity hangs
suspended in a mother’s arms;
swaddled in a mother’s wing, the bat pup nurses.

Think how love can overturn the world,
like the bat mothers who give birth upside down—
So too in the face of darkness, we roost and feed.

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