The Hastily Assembled Angel Meets the God of Human Freedom

Shane McCrae


The hastily assembled angel followed

The humans to their freedom    Just he wondered like

The eyes of the angels   when they fol-

lowed me   after the angels shoved

Me out of Heaven the    angel followed them until

They came upon a desert-colored city

Surrounded by a wall of crumbling bricks

Before which guards armed not with spears but sticks

Stood    and the humans in their freedom raised

Their fingers to their mouths    to say We have

No food    and the guards waved their empty hands

To say There is no food in the city  and

The humans in their freedom killed them both

And pounded with their bloody fists    on the splintering gates

Which shook but didn’t break    the angel watched    as

The humans in their freedom made a giant calf with

A golden body    and an iron head

And slammed the calf into the gates

Which shook and broke apart    the angel saw    the

Humans in their    freedom became as hungry then

As any who had ever lived

Hungrier than the humans in the city

Who had fed    on living in a city

And the angel flew    into the burning city

And kneeled before the calf    as he had seen

So many humans kneel before the gods they

Had made    What god is this he wondered

I kneel before    knowing it is no god

Shane McCrae’s most recent books are The Gilded Auction Block: Poems and Sometimes I Never Suffered. He has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a Lannan Literary Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Image: Bison Calf in the South Yard, United States National Museum Photographic Laboratory, circa 1887. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-006, Box 009, Image No. MAH-3640