I beheld the sunset, transfixed by
The inferno in the clouds.
And there I saw the angels winging
Amidst the amber sunbeams.
Angels and archangels, least perfect
Of the nine choirs, most like us,
Happy in their imperfection
To play among the clouds.
And I wished I could free my soul
From its earthly prison
To soar amongst them between the fiery cumuli.
And so it came to pass that on a night
When the trees, like souls forsaken,
Grasped vainly with withered fingers
At the sapphire moonlight
That rent the dusky clouds,
I stood upon the parapet,
Arched my back like a lyre,
And as one crucified
Spread my arms wide,
And freed myself from earth’s jealous shackles.
And thus I ascended while
The moonlit ground receded beneath me
and I was among the nine choirs,
The flaming Ophanim,
The all seeing Cherubim,
And The Seraphim,
So bright that only One
Might look upon them
In their naked incandescent splendor,
Chanting the Trisagion in the ancient modes,
Dorian, Lydian, and Phrygian.
And still I ascended,
Wishing for nothing ever more
But to listen to their canticle
Until I heard a voice,
Or rather, felt it,
For it passed through me
Like a flaming sword,
And intoned within me,
Saying, “Why have you done this thing?
Do you not know that the span of your days
Is not yours to measure?
Leave us now, for but awhile longer,
Go back whence you came,
And finish what you have begun.”
And I felt myself descend
Along the sapphire moonbeam
Until I lighted amidst the snow and the trees
And I was home once more.
I left that place,
And continued in the world,
Knowing that I once had felt the breath of God.
–Stephen P. Smith