“Dilemmas of the Angels: Intention” by David Romtvedt

David Romtvedt


The angel loves Sundays—coffee and the paper—
but it’s hard today. A man says he cannot 
support a woman’s right to abortion 
even if she becomes pregnant after being raped.
Such pregnancies, he explains, are
intended by God.
She puts down her coffee, turns away, 
and looks out the window into the silence 
of the winter morning—the yard filled with leaves 
fallen from the hundred-year-old cottonwood tree, 
and the two squirrels darting around the trunk as if life
required no thinking.
Maybe the man’s right—all killing is murder 
no matter the horror of life’s creation. Still, it eats 
at her—if the Lord intended the pregnancy, He 
intended the rape.
She feels his invisible caress and distant gaze, 
hands pulling her gown aside, sometimes roughly.
He must know there can be no product 
from their union.
That same Sunday morning, a woman gets up
before her husband and teenaged daughters.
She’s waited all week for this pleasure—
coffee and the paper. But she’s out of milk 
so quick goes to the store, a corner grocery 
like in a movie, run by an old couple 
who know her name and the girls’ names, 
even her husband’s. When she forgets 
the money, they say, “Don’t worry, you can 
pay next time.”
That’s when it happens—the rape. The angel
would intervene, wrestle the rapist away,
but she knows it would
do no good.
Once she tried playing with an Irish Setter, 
the happiest being she’d ever met. He leapt up 
smiling and his soft paws passed through her 
as through the silk screen in her bedroom, 
touching only her wings,
leaving them bruised.
When the Lord got Mary pregnant 
he never knew her. He wanted 
a miracle and made the only 
kind he could.
The squirrels are still running around the tree, 
brains swirling in the emptiness of their heads.
The coffee’s as cold as the winter wind 
blowing the leaves against the window.
The angel would claw the skin off her bones 
but she has no bones, no parts
anyone can touch.
She shivers then unbuttons her robe. 
Let the Lord watch and imagine
what he intends.

from Rattle #42, Winter 2013

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David Romtvedt: “I’m a musician and poet. Language, meaning, and rhythm drive me in both forms—I write poems that don’t have regular meter but I’m always thinking about how the poems move when spoken. I write party dance music that is metrically very regular but I’m always thinking about using language in ways that will break free of the meter a little. My big quest now is to learn Basque, a language of great beauty that is very unlike other European languages.”

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