If there were angels, they would sound this way,
climbing by half-tones, smoke of sacrifice
soaring by imperceptible degrees, like day
lifting itself clear into paradise.
Angels would rise from such a nearly-still
pool of unlabored music, through blue air;
not even wings to beat, or weight of will
anchoring them to earth, or death to bear.
But these are men and women singing, feet
blood-heavy on this unforgiving ground
untouched by angels. If any song is sweet
they sweeten it, inventing the unfound
serenity of heaven, to rejoice,
shaming God to compassion with one voice.
Rhina P. Espaillat
Landscapes with Women: Four American Poets,
Singular Speech Press, ©
1999. Reprinted by permission