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The Making of Angels

We’ve had so many gifted readers at the Hoot over the months. The featured
poets for March, Deborah Warren and Richard Wollman, are now added to that list.
Jennifer Belkus, a Hoot regular, read a neat, brief piece during the open reading.
But I’m reaching back to an earlier session when she read this poem on angels:

The Making of Angels


My grandmother walked the floor at night
past two living room chairs
and into the kitchen, making coffee for a spirit.
She didn’t know it but she was counting.

A cough was milky as weathered quartz.
She held it in her hand for the angels to see.
They took up watch, scuffled along the wooden floors,
loosened and brushed the hair of dolls.

They were new angels,
their breath smelling of mulch.
Gathered at his bed posts as roots and loose soil,
there were ten who saw him off.

                       --Jennifer Belkus

First, the title, so wonderfully allusive: Children spreading their arms for wings in the snow.
Or cutting out paper cherubim for the tree. Or just curling up for a heavenly sleep. It is the
making of angels, and the grace they shed on our lives—even in the face of death—that
Jennifer’s exploring here. And the earthly way she does it,  with fresh concrete images
evoking another realm, is what makes this such a mysterious piece: the two chairs
—the coffee for a spirit (the dying spouse? the angel of death?)—the milky cough - the scent
of mulch. And what is grandmother counting—chairs? Children? Minutes on the clock?
Bridges to the other side? Scuffing the floor the children come, to take up watch at their
grandfather’s bed. New angels they are, not only for age but for what they’ve become: silent
witnesses to the final journey, consolers to both the dying and the living. They hover by the bed
post, waiting, ready to spread their wings. For they are rooted in life, in the lives and deaths
of their grandparents, in the loose soil of this precious earth.
                                                              --JP

“The Making of Angels,” copyright Jennifer Belkus, 2005. Jennifer was a finalist in the Portsmouth Poet Laureate’s “Voice & Vision” Project, collaborating with her mother, Jeanne McCartin, in producing “Flowers, Birds, and Us,” on permanent display at Portsmouth City Hall. Jennifer is also working
with Tim Gaudreau on two pieces for Art-Speak’s upcoming Overnight Art! exhibition in Portsmouth.

Please note: the Poetry Hoot is on the first Wednesday of every month at Cafe Espresso in the 800 Plaza, Portsmouth, NH.   Note: Poems submitted to this column should not exceed nineteen lines.



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