When I Was an Angel – By Lisë Stern

When I Was an Angel
Heavy white cardboard, trimmed like a pair of fused tablets
White elastic straps affixed to one side, the other
Soft white feathers meticulously glued in rows.

I don the wings, an ethereal backpack.
they are a costume, a role,
I am an actor in a theatrical production,
a pathway to a Sabbath celebration,
surrounded by an audience in white.

As we walk,
My friend and me, the wings are becoming part of us
But we don’t yet know it.
We are angels, still in the making.

We stand at our station, a group of angels,
Yom Hashishi, the sixth day, last stop before Sabbath services in the temple.

People arrive, and we extend our hands to those who wander by, and pause.

Would you like a blessing, I ask a young woman.
Yes, she says.
I touch her head, and blessings come through me, and my hands move,
touching face,
touching shoulders,
touching souls.

She blesses me in return, this angel without wings,
late afternoon sun stroking my cheeks,
as it breaks free of confining rain clouds.

Lines form as the blessings continue,
no longer a performance,
and I don’t feel the wings on my back,
but they are there.

And then a man approaches, I have a special blessing to request, he says.
My son died, he tells me.
I exclaim, My son died. When did you lose him?
He says, Last month, ten years ago. Tonight is his yahrzeit.
He says, I’d like a blessing to be able to let go,
to be able to be who I was before.
He tells me about his boy, his sweetness, his yechid, his only child, felled at 20.
My son was 18 when his breath was taken by an angel in the night.
We share our mutual love for,
and anger with
And I raise my hands to his head, silently blessing,
moving to his face,
his shoulders,
and he reaches a hand toward my heart,
And I feel reciprocal healing heat as I touch blessings through his body and soul,
God running through me like blood and breath and hope,

Absolute absolution

We are lovers in grief now, a fierce silent fire connecting, strengthening,
As we move to an embrace of heart to heart to soul to soul
United by a loss none should ever understand.

Everyone has passed through our station. My friend and I join the walkers,
Our angel wings have become us, and we soar.

Inside the temple, we pray at the edge of concentric circles of white-clad bodies,
We ascend to the balcony and gaze upon our joyous chanting people.
We are there, and another,
A grieving woman in blue.

You should bless her, my friend says.

I approach. Would you like a blessing, I ask.
I would love a blessing, she replies, and I sit beside her,
reaching hands to her head,
I feel the sadness, the pain.
I absorb, and share, loving as God streams through once more.

Her tears flow as the blessing flows, infusing her, infusing me,
With holiness
And we too embrace, scarred pain against new,
Soul searing hope for times of easement.

Standing with my friend, we turn our hands up to receive,
Thanking God for giving us the opportunity to bless,
and we are all
and we are surrounded, dancing, songs of joy and welcoming the Sabbath queen,
into the room, into our hearts, alongside blessings given and received.

And we flutter down, joining the circles of light.


©2016 by Lisë Stern