Ross White
I Know What Love Is

What if the angels,

with their conch-shaped trumpets,

their dainty bows and arrows,

don’t really give a shit about us?

What if they gather in heavenly circles

at the mouth of the clouds

to stare down on field mice,

on ferrets, on millipedes?

We think angels take human shape

because our ancestors painted them that way,

but those were the same ancestors

who toiled through the Dark Ages,

who took a long damn time to discern

that the heart wasn’t the seat of intelligence.

I’d say they suffered at times

from a lack of imagination.

Sure, they fashioned rocks into the tips of spears,

sure, they managed some empires,

and sure, they figured out

which knotweeds would dye the wool,

which berries would pigment the oils.

Make, if you want, a case for human ingenuity,

but I vote against us

when it comes to knowledge of the Divine.

In Chronicles, God sends an angel

to slaughter the Assyrian army.

In Numbers, he opens chasms

to swallow up the defiant,

he burns with holy fire those gathered in worship,

he sets a plague on fourteen thousand.

Imagine writing those words, thinking,

“Yes, this is the God who loves me.”

I don’t think He much cares about us.

I think the next tornado, the next tsunami,

the next antibiotic-resistant strain

will be whimsy and afterthought.

I think he’s the God of Rats,

the God of Ticks, surrounded

in heaven by legions of slim-thoraxed angels

flapping swallowtail wings, spitting venom

into each others’ many-prismed eyes.

I think He’s created the virus in his own image,

and He loves the virus enough

to create an endlessly adaptable food source for it

that also serves as means of conveyance.


Found In Volume 46, No. 03
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  • Ross White
Ross White
About the Author




Ross White is the author of the chapbook, How We Came Upon the Colony (Unicorn Press, 2014). With Matthew Olzmann, he edited Another & Another: An Anthology from the Grind Daily Writing Series (Bull City Press, 2012). His work has appeared in Best New Poets 2012, New England Review, Poetry Daily, and The Southern Review, among others. He teaches creative writing at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.