From The Recording Angel, by CAROLYN FORCHE

The child asks about earth

The earth is a school. It is a waiting room, a

foyer giving onto emptiness

It is for desires, small but beautifully done

The earth is wrapped in weather, and the

weather in risen words

The child is awake, singing to himself,

speaking in a language ending with the

word night

Unaware of the sea entering, of the eternal

dunes burying

Wooden matchsticks in a cup

The meaning of an object or its lack

Their preoccupation with suitcases and their


God returns to the world from within and

the past

Is circular, like consequence

The earth tentative, blue: a fire wrapped in

cold water

A sudden gust of yellow tickets, a cold blue

rail and some boat lights

The barrier dunes, blue asters, the parabolic

dunes, and wind

The children have returned to the beach,

this time a boy and a girl

Hurrying toward then away from the water

He is wearing a red jacket and it is not

important, the jacket

The child asks if fish have tongues. The

other laughs, giving white tissues to the dog

A white sail tied over the bay's mouth

muffles the sea

On the water's map, little x's: a cross-stitched

sampler of cries for help

And yet every lost one has been seen,

mornings in winter, and at night

When the fishermen have cast their nets one

too many times

They surface, the lost, drawing great hillocks

of breath

We on the shore no longer vanish when the

beacon strokes us

The child's boat plies the water in imitation

of boats

Years they sought her, whose crew left on

the water a sad Welsh hymn

Voices from a ketch lit by candles

Days pass and nothing occurs, nights pass,

nights, and life continues in its passing

We must try then to send a message ending

with the word night

From " The Angel of History " by Carolyn Forche . ( HarperCollins : $ 20. ) 199 4 Reprinted by permission.

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