DRESSING ANGELS

1.
Oh, decisions!
Annunciation, for example–
a pleated pink gown
or rose colored silk with suns?
The gold dalmatic bordered with red?
Embroidered cope with rainbow wings?
Everyone accessorizes
with a lily, or a cross-tipped staff.
It’s tradition.

For hanging out with the Madonna
and Child, we find that maroon
is sweet against the grotto moss.
Our cherubs don’t dress at all;
often the youngest go unbodied.

If it’s a day to Assume the Virgin–
nothing is more stunning
than red or green velvet over pale tunics,
the wings just edged with gold.

White is the only thing for Last Judgement,
and it’s attractive at a Resurrection, too.
But never, ever, a cassock and surplice.
Even with the tippet.
Especially with the tippet.
What’s the point of processing
if you’re not going to be in the show?
Cassock-albs?  Please.
They’re so–efficient.

But then there are the glorious choirs:
We’d never get there on time if
one of the archangels wasn’t assigned
to decide about the stoles–lengths,  colors,
if they slip into the cincture knots
in priest or deacon style.

On hot nights we like
to wear a light linen alb,
always with amice.

Full-dress orchestra’s divine:
tight sleeves, embroidery,
those haloes with the central flame–
The orchestra’s all about us,
the only thing that ever is.

2.
When Michael is called upon to cast out the devil
any style of armor works,
but when he must accompany a new-freed soul
on the long journey to Heaven,
I find the breastplate, gauntlets and boots alarming.
Wear something soft and comforting,
is what I think God should say.
Put on an apron, like a Grandmother.
It’s scary enough for them, being dead,
so please remove the flashy halo
and for Heaven’s sake, furl your pointy wings.

3.
I used to be an angel,
a herald, the one who stood outside the tomb
on Easter morning with good news.
I wore a white robe on that occasion,
over my cassock-alb.
Sometimes I got to sing.

At Christmas, I got to tell the flock–
gathered in their pews
surrounded by poinsettias–
“I bring you good tidings
of great joy.”  I wore
the same whiteness then.

There was red for fire and blood,
purple for royalty,
green for the daily round.

Now I wear jeans.
My vestments are in the attic:
tippet with its rusty shield,
Anglican cassock, handmade surplice,
the bright and simple stoles.
I never had a dalmatic:
and what would become of it now?

The soil holds resurrection.
I no longer assume a thing.
On clear nights I go outside
to hear the singing, faint among the stars.

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