Head, Perhaps Of An Angel

written by Debora Greger

Head, Perhaps Of An Angel

— Debora Greger

limestone, with traces of polychromy, c. 1250

Point Dume was the point,
he said, but we never came close,
no matter how far we walked the shale
broken from California.

Someone's garden
had slipped, hanging itself by a vine
from the cliffs of some new Babylon
past Malibu.

Drowning the words,
the wind didn't fling back in our faces,
the Pacific washed up a shell:
around an alabastron

of salt water for the dead,
seaweed rustled its papers, drying them out,
until it died. Waves kept crashing
into the heart

of each shell
I held to my ear like a phone,
but they were just the waves of my blood.
And through it all

I heard him say,
how could it be nine months ago
his grandson had taken his own life,
somewhere back east?

He was fifteen.
O Pacific, what good is our grief?
Something screamed at the sandy child
who poured seawater

into a hole.
Child, you'll never empty the ocean,
Augustine said. How can I believe?
The wet fist of a wave

dissolved in sand.
Like a saint, a seagull flapped down the beach
in search of something raw—an angel
with an empty pail?

No, a teenage boy,
hands big as a man's, held a sea slug
quaking like an aspic. Under a rock, another
drew into its body

a creature
larger than itself. Live, said Death,
to child and childless alike, indifferently.
I am coming.

About the poet


Debora Greger

Debora Greger is an award-winning American poet as well as a visual artist. She was raised in Richland, Washington. She attended the University of Washington and then the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She then went on to hold fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and at Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Florida. Her poetry has been included in six volumes of The Best American Poetry and she has exhibited her artwork at several galleries and museums across the country. She also has a poem on Poetry 180 in number 42. Her work appeared in Paris Review, The Nation, Poetry, and The New Criterion. She lives...

Read Full Biography

Poem of the Day

London Types: Bus Driver

William Ernest Henley

He's called The General from the brazen craft
And dash with which he sneaks a bit of road
And all its fares; challenged, or chafed, or chaffed,
Back-answers of the newest he'll explode;
He reins...

Read Full Poem

Poet of the Day

Assurbanipal

Ashurbanipal (Ashur is creator of an heir; 685 BC – c. 627 BC), also spelled Assurbanipal or Ashshurbanipal) was an Assyrian king, the son of Esarhaddon and the last strong king of the Neo-Assyrian Empire (668 BC – c. 627 BC). He is famed for amassing...

Read Full Biography