Every Angel Is Terrible

Artwork by Michael Markowitz

Angel #1, 2002, by Michael Markowitz. Charcoal, pastel, and pigment on paper.
(Lines from "Second Elegy")

Every angel is terrible.
And still, alas
knowing all that
I serenade you
you almost deadly
birds of the soul.
Where are the days of Tobias
when one of these
brightest of creatures
stood
at the simple front door
disguised a little
for the trip
and not so frightening
(a young man
like the one
who looked curiously
out at him).
If the dangerous archangel
took one step now
down toward us
from behind the stars
our heartbeats
rising like thunder
would kill us.
Who are you?
Creation's spoiled darlings
among the first to be perfect...
pockets of essence
ecstasy shields
tumultuous storms
of delightful feelings
then suddenly
separate
mirrors
gathering the beauty
that streamed away from them
back to their own faces again.

— Rainer Maria Rilke,
translated by David Young
(from Duino Elegies,
copyright 1978 by W. W. Norton & Co., Inc.)
Angel, 2002-2003, by Michael Markowitz. Charcoal, pastel, and pigment on paper.
Detail of Angel, 2002-2003, by Michael Markowitz. Charcoal, pastel, and pigment on paper.

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