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Page 206

Those who hammer us with their brilliance
are in hell. "Hell," like "blank," means brightness --
at least it does in German, and I think, Your Honor,
that we can stipulate to the German's expert knowledge
of Hell. What greater evil than to turn us away
from the light by using it to destroy? We become
saucer-eyed -- deer in the headlights, reflecting
satanic brilliance back at Satan. The reflection includes
his intention to overwhelm, which, reflected
from blank, dazzled eyes, becomes agony,
just as a face swollen with rage becomes hard
to distinguish from a face ravaged by pain.

And here's the hell of it: The worst of angels
was trying to help us. He could not help
but help, by presence alone, but came to doubt
his powers. (It was a joke: Someone pretended
to be harmed -- groaned too realistically at a pun, perhaps.)
Doubting his powers, he tried too hard, all that "pride"
merely the reflex of effort; he felt the waning magic,
solved it by flaring up overwhelmingly, saw or misread
agony in astonied eyes (perhaps it was pity),
tried (ah, pride!) to save us all from his brilliance
by going out like a snuffed candle (wicked!),
became one of us, fearful of magic, consoled
by labels (you are a cow, you a lion, you a tree)
and labels of labels (you are a lowing beast, you
a tawny nobility, you a lone sentinel on the hillside)
and labels of nothing at all (you suffer from Oppositional
Defiance Disorder; you try to read my words, but fail because
of your chronic clinical Attention Deficit Disorder) --

moving always away from knowing. Silly angels, persist
in your folly! Hammer us! Show off! Spread
iridescent wings! Blind us! You can't hurt us,
for we are of your angelic seed, and have better eyes
we've forgotten how to use. Teach us our blindness,
that we may learn again to see.

Note: The poem shows the angel Lucifer's descent to Satan, Satan's descent to man, man's descent to bad poetry (labels of labels), and poetasters descent to psychiatrist. One could, perhaps, go even lower.

Mid-poem, the candle is "wicked" because (groan) it has a wick.

Astonied (mid-stanza 2): Old word for astonished, astounded – as if at sudden thunder, says the derivation. Why are we not warned by the lightning? But always, those with vision are ignored, and others are surprised by the outbreak of easily foreseen wars. I like the suggestion in "astonied" of "turned to stone," like one who sees the Gorgon's face.

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