The Promise of Apocalypse

by Allen Braden

after a painting by Roger Wagner
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What symbols are these? A host of souls
forsaken? Or each kernel reaped: a sorrow
hammered forevermore into bitter bread?
The title, The Harvest Is the End of the World
and the Reapers Are the Angels, leaves
no question. We’ve forgotten the angels
promised us. Spoken into being straight
from His lips. Remember pronouncing,
dismembering, spreading belovedly each
one over our fields in a time of drought?
We were children then no doubt.

Here is the forecast: sycamore leaves tremble
at the apocalyptic wind from a trumpet’s snout.
The sky, however, not red with blood or fallout.
Same immaculate blueness of burnished steel,
archetypal hue of Mary’s mantle, of glacier
at its core or veins in a young sinner’s breast.
Dare say the end of days would be welcome?
They’re scripture in action, these angels scything,
sickling, bundling, probably singing all the while.
Cooling the quickened immortal blood
which flows through outstretched wings.
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Allen Braden has published in The Times Literary Supplement, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New Republic, Orion and elsewhere.

A recipient of fellowships from the NEA, Artist Trust and the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Memorial Fund, Braden is the author of A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood(University of Georgia) and Elegy in the Passive Voice (University of Alaska/Fairbanks).

Allen grew up working his family’s farm and cattle ranch outside White Swan, Washington, on the Yakama Indian Reservation. He teaches at Tacoma Community College and serves as an assistant poetry editor of Terrain.org.