Angel Saint

for Ssenono Vicent (9/1984 - 9/2003) 

If I could choose, if it was possible, if I was worthy, if babies homes weren’t crowded 
if aunts and grandparents weren’t overburdened and I could take it all back 
to the point where no man had sinned, I would rather be an angel than a saint.

I would rather float close to God and close to men than be canonized by men. 
I’m dying and I see a light, I’m dying and I see my creator, I’m dying 
and the heat which fills my veins finally calls my lifelong bluffing

and I leave. Life’s been so long in coming and so quick in going — somewhere between 
watching my parents turn hollow and smelling the rainy season come on again
and again life must have happened because now it’s stopping and I can’t find 

the part where life happened at all. Once, madam was explaining a sonnet and the turns 
it can take at the end and the tensions its form carries and I thought my life is less sonnet 
and more rhymed couplet — beginning, it is nearly done and ending, it is still being propelled.

My lantern is fading, my coal is cooling. I want to leave this world and find another, 
not stay remembered here where only Ugandans would notice me looking out 
from prayer cards. They’ll pray and I’ll have to be the mendicant for their 

eyelid lesions and pointed ribs, their mouth sores, night sweats, and patching hair; 
so let me be an angel, let me watch again from above. I’ll stop begging and 
start living; please give it up, please give me up, please — I want to go and meet them — 

the saints I prayed to, the angels who watched over me, the God who made me 
in his image. I want to see if he has shrunken muscles, too and know if his mouth 
grows dry in the night so he wakes swollen and cracking. I want this heat, this choice.

Reprinted with permission of Ausable Press.