POETRY: Excerpts From The Angel Handbook by Kathleen Norris

Excerpts From The Angel Handbook by Kathleen Norris

Be careful how you unfold your wings—
there are some in the world who are not content
unless their teeth are full of feathers

You may find employment with the Sanitation Department
or at any laundry

When you ride subways wear ornate silver shoes
and always stand near the door

When you cross at intersections look both ways, then up
It will often be expedient to altogether remove your wings
from your back, where people will first think to look for them,
and carry them around inside you—
at such times be careful that your hands do not forget
and begin to imitate their beating in your heart,
for if you begin to fly, the police will be called
and you will only confuse them

You will find that you are most free
when you are able to sit still

You will have a great fondness for music,
but be sure to hide your ears when listening to it,
for they will throb and grow

You must listen to what people say
even when they talk to you: this will involve
keeping silent much of the time, and being bored a lot

You will never tell a lie,
but you will have many secrets

At times it will seem that we have deserted you but
when people take you in, you will leave their teacups glowing,
their windows shining

You are not especially alert to danger but at times
you will sense an uncontrollable desire to warn others
of impending doom: to yell “Watch Out!”
as they stroll under low hanging branches,
or along the edges of pits

You will meet some who wear their faces nervously,
who will tell you how it seems
they will not survive.

These are the children; they still have parents,
or still need them

Many things you do will seem strange to them:
remember their savage origins,
be gentle and kind

As you find no situation intolerable,
they will think that you are cruel

Making decisions will be the most natural of tasks
but it will rarely seem necessary to make promises

Their logic will not make sense to you,
their mathematics especially will be impossible,
for you will never be able to divine anything

For amusement, look at the picture books:
angels there have huge white wings, silken robes,
long fine hair, and always look like eunuchs

You will meet some whose faces give a glow
as if they once had halos:
these are the lovers,
you will make a lot of love

and your flights, even though you are careful
to keep them invisible, will make those who love you sad:
they will not understand that you never go anyplace
you’re not meant to be.

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