The Hastily Assembled Angel Meets the God of Human Freedom

Shane McCrae

The hastily assembled angel followed

The humans to their freedom   Just he wondered like

The eyes of the angels       when they fol-

lowed me       after the angels shoved


Me out of Heaven the       angel followed them until

They came upon a desert-colored city

Surrounded by a wall of crumbling bricks

Before which guards armed not with spears but sticks


Stood       and the humans in their freedom raised

Their fingers to their mouths       to say We have

No food       and the guards waved their empty hands

To say There is no food in the city and


The humans in their freedom killed them both

And pounded with their bloody fists       on the splintering gates

Which shook but didn’t break       the angel watched       as

The humans in their freedom made a giant calf with


A golden body       and an iron head

And slammed the calf into the gates

Which shook and broke apart       the angel saw      the

Humans in their       freedom became as hungry then


As any who had ever lived

Hungrier than the humans in the city

Who had fed       on living in a city

And the angel flew       into the burning city


And kneeled before the calf       as he had seen

So many humans kneel before the gods they

Had made       What god is this he wondered

I kneel before       knowing it is no god

Shane McCrae is the author of Sometimes I Never Suffered. He has received an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Literary Award, a NEA Fellowship, and a Whiting Writer’s Award. He teaches at Columbia University.
Originally published:
April 1, 2020



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