"All Puffy and White, Goldish, Harpy, and Angelonic"

Lance Larsen


This the neighbor boy’s exact description of heaven. Which he blissfully ad-libbed from the pulpit, like some Shackleton on laudanum describing the white hell in which he was forced to sacrifice his own sled dogs. But laced with tenderness. Take that, Saint John of Patmos, take that, Thomas Aquinas and dour Kierkegaard, with your cubits and mystic ecstasies and dialectical ladders. Something about that nasal teenage voice, all mercy, lifted me out of the morass of nettles I call my life. He wore a fauxhawk and flip-flops, a Star of David etched in ink across the back of his right hand. Not for symbolism, but for the fun of it. Next week a smiley face, the week after that thunderbolts. Oh, to be seventeen. I was already back in the nettles, clenching and unclenching my fists, like a seasoned sled driver deciding which of my loyal huskies to eat first.

More by Lance Larsen

For I Will Consider the Lone Crow at Angels Landing

For she rides updrafts with scalloped hands, interrogating air.
For in the kingdom of lift, she has few peers. 
For she bullies the hawk and drops stones on a snapping fox.
For her trickster ways coalesce into spirals.
For I pine for a Muse so wild with wind.
For she counts murderous drop-offs as nothing.
For my quicksilver thoughts cling to her, like spume on a wave.
For she disdains the safety chains we grasped to climb here—
            but not the shimmer of my Yankees cap.
For her blackness kindles blue fire. 
For if only she would mistake my arm for a branch.
For I can freeze her feathers on film but not their glow.
For she shrugs off myths like a singer shedding stale arias.
For she offers no elegy to those who slip—not even a caw.
For her errands of air map the sky with longing.
For she hops towards me now, part beggar, part Baryshnikov.
For she puts up with berries and nuts but prefers pastrami.
For she snaps the heads off locusts.
For she fills her craw with gravel and chews the world twice.
For if only I could relax into knowing.
For she rubs herself with crushed ants to keep off parasites.
For she flies straight into the oculus of What if?
For I will call her Mischief Girl, or Odin.
For she jeers at prayer and says I am my own Zion.
For darkness is no more to her than dust on her wings.  

                                                            (After Christopher Smart)   

In Toledo, the Sequestered Brides of Christ


In Toledo, the sequestered brides of Christ make marzipan. And devotees like me buy up the sweets via a three-chambered lazy Susan in an alley. Hear a voice but glimpse not the heavenly hands, an enterprise both savvy and vaguely eucharistic. “To taste the kingdom in a crumb of dough,” I say, a privilege to misquote Blake, even if it’s only to myself. The recipe dates back to the Court of the Caliphs, as alchemic as it is simple. Shouldn’t every traveler make a habit of eating earth, wind, air, and fire? Not to mention almonds, which must equal 50 percent by weight to pass muster with Toledo inspectors. I pay, turn the lazy Susan, and walk away with my own tin of marzipan, the abbess’s unseen blessing dusting each morsel. “Eat and be made whole,” I can almost hear her say. The body of Christ is a fish—delicious. And now a star, like the one that guided wandering kings. And now a sword, two-edged, like matters of belief. And now—forgive me—my Lord is a serpent. Spiraling in on himself like vortex or Milky Way, my faith quickening as God’s scales dissolve on my tongue.