Mysteries, like which nightspot to frequent, we posed,
Mysteries five hundred miles higher than sunspots' puzzles
We posed ourselves, and gave up on rest,
And we could probe, until the last barroom closed,
Like heaven, closed to all but the angels,
Could speculate about the lives of the blest.
So Noel, lost in visions cosmic or comic,
Comic, yes, as a pratfall's hopeless injury,
Asked, as he watched hungry or graceful waitresses,
"Archangels are they called, or anorexic?
God blesses, right, the lovely and the hungry?"
Then waitresses flew, draped in black dresses,
Past the gaudy bar's art objects, and vanished
To snatch, out of sight, a drag, a bite, an unquenching sip,
And we conjectured, still, inside the Black Rose,
Drinking all in only, how angels were nourished.
I, lip curled, asked, "If on the tip
Of a pin a million angels could shed their clothes,
And that's the Word-Made-Flesh by God Ineffable,
The tip he'd leave, how many could thrive,
Unstarving, fetching, and blissed,
In a hospital, on the point of a hypodermic needle?"
The waitresses served, and all kept themselves alive,
Though all would leave bamboozled, exiled, unkissed
From the Black Rose Cafe where lights and ice like stars shine.
When Noel asked, "How do beauty and hunger feel?"
I, through a glass peering, "It's like being mystified,"
Said, "It's, like in the Holy Land, cringing at every shrine."
Angels, enigmas, waitresses for real—
As we posed mysteries to hide (what?) to hide—
Didn't pause, trays poised, around a transcendent mirror
For bleary, investigative, or lonely eyes
Which brainstormed a universe, lonely or chained, for the sake
Of (which is more chilling than Jordan) flesh really, and terror,
Terror to think: starvation, chill, and lies.
Noel whispered, "If I die before I wake..."
This poem originally appeared in Timbuktu