Out of the Ghetto of Angels
Jack Butler

Oh heaven is a hilly town
where all the houses rise
white among the up and down
and curve and twist of street
on street of brick and green
the overhanging trees
and blue the overhanging skies
and yellow the light of afternoon
and nights the gangs of angels meet
in the coffeeshop saloon
and tell each other lies
and make their glasses clink
and all the angels kiss and tell
and all know what to think
and all their thinking is a flame
as blue as alcohol's
that whispers in the gutters
and whispers at the walls
and all that's rank or stubborn
that flame it will sublime
and what it can't will suborn
and flame is all that matters
and boredom is a public crime
and I was once an angel there
but I got sometime bored
though I set my tattered tongue
to melody like the rest
I never met the Lord
and I missed my mother and father
who did not quite belong
I knew something was wrong:
When I ate air I'd vomit air,
and I got so depressed
they thought I was the devil
and I knew I was in hell
and that is how I fell
to the country I now travel
where half the roads are gravel
and half the flowers weeds
and a man halfway gets what he needs.

--Originally published in New Orleans Review

Return to Fall 2009 Table of Contents