Poetry by Maureen Wilkinson

Living as Angels

This poem is the provisional title poem of my next collection 'Living as Angels'.

LIVING AS ANGELS: The Erotic Mountains, Tana Toradja, Sulawesi
These mountains pierced the clouds of paradise so pleasingly,
they seemed a fitting dwelling place for angels.
And so the first descended,
using a silken ladder, which stayed magically in place,
for a time at least,                         
whilst Heaven was Earth's companion.        
It seems that paradise remains
in the lyrical impromptu of these rocky elevations;
this unbreakable clockwork sun;
and the ambidextrous air, spinning itself into a radiance of water.
According to my guide book
the first angel inhabitants numbered seven hundred and seventy-seven,
and included an angel king, an angel queen, and their male servant.
Earth made a gift of its good appetites;
and the queen gave birth to the first earth angels, a boy and a girl.
But when the children were grown they could find no suitable marriage partners,
so the angel king sent his servant back to Heaven
to ask if they might be married to each other.
The angel climbed, and climbed the silken ladder,
but the clay on his feet, the fruit on his tongue, the wind in his lungs
had made him heavy; and he could not reach
the hinge of the sky,
so he turned back, and lied,
saying that Heaven said 'Yes'.
Thus the young siblings, sole fruit from a single tree, joined their one flesh,
and grew wise with delight.  It was Adam and Eve all over
again: and Heaven looked down and cried 'Taboo, taboo!'
And their bodies turned into monumental stone; his phallus a mountain peak,
her vagina a ravine:
and a river ran between them.
And the silken ladder fell, and turned to stone,
and I think it coiled over all the world,
in many hard and convoluted steps
which used to lead to heaven.
So here we all remain, doing our best, living as angels.
I with my guide-book, watch and camera,
wearing sandals in spite of the mud...living as angels  
have come to this sloping village to buy weavings; but today
they are celebrating the death of a queen-caste woman.
Men are singing a lament; women are dancing
rhythmically across the hollow rice pounds
which others drum with pestles.  There are hundreds
of live black pigs tied in bamboo sedan chairs.
and carried shoulder high. 
Pigs will be killed to show her wealth and station
in heaven-to-come...living on, living as angels.
They will kill buffalo to transport her soul;
or one echo of her soul, for according to this guide book
souls have as many layers
as onion's skins...living on, living as angels.
Soul at her cooking hearth, soul in her rice barn,
soul at her village fence, soul in the boulder
hollowed to hold her body, soul in her tau-tau effigy
set high up in the mountain.
Soul striding on the light that leads to heaven.
Sing for us, flying sister as we try
to emulate the dance
step-step-steps, which take you everywhere at once.
We are still slowed with harvests, and with burdens.
We do not speak each other's languages,
but smile, seeing the angel in each other.
We dance in pairs,
as Heaven is Earth's reflection. 

Click here to return to the Poetry Index