There Will Be Angels
(Years after seeing Claude Lorrain’s The Dismissal of Hagar
at the Alte Pinakothek, Munich)
The woman and her son seem so small,
Looking out to the vast expanse of that desert;
Abraham’s stern finger points the way they must go,
Sarah watches from her window above, and ever so slightly
I don’t know what Hagar was thinking in that moment, of course,
Or what fears must have gripped her heart;
Neither Lorrain nor the Genesis story offer such details. But I imagine
Her heart must have felt like a crimson convulsion
Of tangled emotions; and I imagine her back
Must have burned with the sting of Sarah’s stare,
Sharper than any sun’s rays.
Surely she must have wondered where water would be found
To fill the small skin she carried. Or where a succulent plant
Might offer its juices for sustenance, however brief.
I wonder whether, out there in that stark dry land,
She ever dreamed of raindrops
Or angels—or even one angel—its wings perhaps
Disturbing the desert dust.
I wanted to say to her, Listen! You and Ishmael,
You will get through this; the story says so!
I wanted to tell her (and myself)
Listen! The basest of adversaries
I wanted to say, Trust. Patience and trust.
They are preposterous, and they are inevitable,
For your only other option is resignation to a life
Impaled on the sword of fear.
I wanted to say (for I know how the story goes),
There will be