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Falling

Falling
by Sandi Leibowitz


Bored of radiance,
of thousand-voiced Hosannas,
I sped through the heavens,
my gilded wings fanning
the roseate cheeks of cherubs
as I arrowed towards earth.      

I arrived nowhere.
I walked along a dusty road
until I learned weariness.
My white feet blistered.

It was hot.
Diamonds of sweat
rained from my face.
Cicadas made a parched noise
that grated on mine ear.
Beside an olive grove
I rested.

One tree,
more handsome than the rest,
had limbs serpentine
as the river that halved Eden.

A breeze stirred,
nothing like the celestial winds
fervent with eternal praise.

My breeze played in the olives,
flicking each leaf
from green side to silver,
from silver to green,
eager as an angel
turning pages of scripture.
I watched.
I listened.
The tongues of the olives sang.

Dust invaded my nostrils,
my lungs.
I coughed and choked.
Tears came to my eyes.
Never before had I coughed.

“Here,” a voice behind me said.

I had not heard her sandaled feet
behind me on the road.
The woman in striped linen
untied a skin from her belt,
and offered it to me.

The water was tepid.
How many hours
had the skin baked in the sun?
I bethought myself
of the brisk blue waterfalls of heaven
but was glad to drink.

Only when my coughing stopped
did I observe the woman.
Her skin was the color of the dusty road,
her brown eyes nothing like
the sapphires of the seraphs.
Her tan face creased
into a smile.
I, who had gazed upon
the holy face of God,
was struck breathless.

The villagers say my wife
is no beauty.
They wonder how she won
an angel’s love.

I fell at that first instant
of beholding,
found in her at once
a tree’s grace,
the silver-tongued song
of the olives,
the water that quenches my thirst.

* * *


Sandi Leibowitz writes fantasy fiction and poetry, often based on myths and fairy tales. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such places as Strange Horizons, Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium and Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5, edited by Ellen Datlow.  She has never met an angel but she frequently and happily sings Hosanna, especially if it belongs in a piece of Renaissance polyphony.

What do you think is the attraction of the fantasy genre?

It allows one to experience things beyond our mundane, everyday existences--so full of inanities (doing laundry, buying toothpaste, getting the mail, paying the bills...yawn, yawn, yawn). All fantasies don't transport us into worlds filled with beauty, but even the most terrible fantasy worlds allow us to experience other heights, such as heroism. I'm always surprised at the numbers of people who are uninterested in Fantasy, and even by other forms of Fiction. Fiction, and Fantasy in particular, were humans' first explorations in literature--gods and heroes are the stuff of every culture's life-blood. Fantasy is something we all engage in, whether we realize it or not. Who of us doesn't dream? Who doesn't long or aspire? Every aspiration is an engagement with the "What-if" world that doesn't exist, at least not yet. From horror to sci fi to myth to sword and sorcery, Fantasy gets us in touch with the sublime (as Schiller discussed it)--whether in its form of awe-inspiring power or awe-inspiring beauty. I just saw a video of Italian conductor Riccardo Mutti where he said that the conductor's role was to conjure the feeling of the music from the composer through the musician to the audience, and in that way to touch the divine. I think that's what all art aspires to (though we may differ in our definitions of "divine"), and Fantasy does in particular.

1 comments:

Robert Frazier said...

The attraction of angelic to earthly is handled nicely, stripped clean of possible purple phrasing. And with sharp, tight language that reminds me of Diane Ackerman. Especially the use of olive tree imagery.