A Great Noise

To hear “Noise” read by the poet, click here.

Then he died.

And they said: Another soulfree.

Which was the wrong way to see it, I thought,

having been there,

having lain down beside him until

his body became rigid with what I believe

was not the stiffening of death

but of surprise, the initial

unbelief of the suddenly ex-slave hearing

Rest; let it fall now, this burden.

The proof most commonly put forth for the soul

as a thing that exists and weighs

something is that

the body weighs something less, after death–

a clean fact.

In The Miraculous Translation of the Body

of Saint Catherine of Alexandria to Sinai

the number of angels required to bear the body

all that way through the air

comes to four,

which tells us nothing

about weight, or the lack of it, since

the angels depicted

are clearly those for whom

the only business is hard labor,

the work angels,

you can tell:

the musculature;

the resigned way they wear clothes.

Beyond them in rank,

in the actual presence of God,

the seraphim stand naked, ever-burning,

six-winged: two to fly with,

in back; two at the face to withstand

the impossible winds that

are God;

and a third pair–for modesty,

for the covering

of sex.

A great

noise is said to always

attend them:

less the humming of wings than

the grinding you’d expect

from the hitching of what is hot,


and all devotion

to the highest, brightest star.