Poem: Questions About Angels by Billy Collins

I’m fresh out of anything to say, because after all, it’s almost Christmas vacation.

You know how the last days of school go. The children carelessly scribble their final assignments, eyes on the door, ready to pile from the room, go sledding, drink hot chocolate.

Me? I’ll be hanging tinsel on parts of life that could use a touch of silver.

But today, I’m doing the only thing a westward-ho writer could possibly do.

I’m sending you a poem –written by someone else — because as I said, my brain is busy thinking about what to put in my very small suitcase, wondering what to give my daughter for Christmas, and writing a set of instructions for the (new) pet sitter.

I hope you enjoy this poem by Billy Collins from his collection “Sailing Alone Around the Room.”

What Billy writes makes perfect sense to me, first that he would be contemplating all manner of things such as questions about angels, but also that he would go to the trouble of inviting the rest of us to join him. His poems are wonderfully varied, usually light hearted, sometimes comical. I adore his unexpected left turns.

Questions About Angels

By Billy Collins
Of all the questions you might want to ask
about angels, the only one you ever hear
is how many can dance on the head of a pin.
No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time
besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin
or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth
or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.
Do they fly through God’s body and come out singing?
Do they swing like children from the hinges
of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?
Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?
What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,
their diet of unfiltered divine light?
What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall
these tall presences can look over and see hell?
If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole
in a river and would the hole float along endlessly
filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?
If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive
in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume
the appearance of the regular mailman and
whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?
No, the medieval theologians control the court.
The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.
It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.
She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.
All right, everyone! Blessings to you and yours. Have a good Holiday and I’ll see you all after the New Year!
To Love and All Things Poetic, Musical and Sparkly,

Billy Collins, In Care of Relationships, Questions About Angels, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Terri Crosby

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