The Hastily Assembled Angel on Care and Vitality

Shane McCrae

The hastily assembled angel watches

From the air he watches   from that point in the air

Where years from now the apex of the pyra-

mid he is watching being       built will be

Invisibly       he watches as slaves roll

Huge stones from the quarry to the pyramid the

Slave who invented       the method for moving

The stones is dead       the stones       that were too big

For human beings to move       the angel saw

The slave was killed for       attempting to correct

The implementation of his method       which

The Egyptian engineers had not at first

Completely understood       though even as

His dark blood made the dirt beside them dark

They saw the first board buckle       beneath the weight

Of the first stone       fortunately the slave had

Explained his method often to his fellow

Slaves       and they could when they were ordered to

Silently make it work the angel sees the

Slaves serve their masters most       efficiently

When they aren’t talking to each other       but

They serve their masters most       quickly just after

They have devised a plan to kill their masters

Shane McCrae is the author of Sometimes I Never Suffered among other books. He has received a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and an NEA fellowship. He teaches at Columbia University and lives in New York City.
Originally published:
April 1, 2020


Rachel Cusk

The novelist on the “feminine non-state of non-being”
Merve Emre


Renaissance Women

A new book celebrates—and sells short—Shakespeare’s sisters
Catherine Nicholson

Fady Joudah

The poet on how the war in Gaza changed his work
Aria Aber


New perspectives, enduring writing. Join a conversation 200 years in the making. Subscribe to our print journal and receive four beautiful issues per year.