"Better Angels," "By Now, Of Course" and "Before an Empire Falls"

Better Angels

"Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched...by the better angels of our nature.”
—Abraham Lincoln


There they are, stirring in our memory, potent, diaphanous
gliding around like classic ads for Chanel perfume, with never
a cross word for the novice souls hiking up their cassocks.
They don’t look down on Hellish Dukes or those in limbo
or envy, the eight orders above them or seek to unseat the seraphim.
They are better than the host who did Archangel Michael a solid
in his battle against heavenly malcontents. These are the angels
who never laughed at Lucifer as he tumbled down, amidst
Bruegel's frogs and fish and idiots. They don’t sneer at the fallen
with their demolished hubris. That would be the sin of pride,
and these are sinless, stainless, better angels, though
they’d never stoop to tell you so. But they are angels imagined
by a profane world and when it forsakes them, it is helpless
without a blueprint for mercy, a plan for forgiveness.



By Now, Of Course

By now, we are in the thin of it or maybe the thick.
The founders promised us happiness and the pursuit of it,
whatever that means. They didn’t leave us a definition.
To them, it may have been a Bible, a small farm,
a willing servant, a stash of claret. Who knows?
Whatever they meant, happiness itself is written right into
the Declaration of Independence, including the right to pursue it.
And we do pursue it—in the boardroom, office, bar,
bedroom, up against the proverbial wall—
prey and predator, at least one of them seeking happiness
as undefined by law, seeking freedom from constraint,
seeking pleasure, contentment, gaiety, joy. Too often now 
it’s justice versus grift. The Revolution comes to us,
a gruesome joke—equality—as much as we can take.



Before an Empire Falls

before an empire falls into the hands of an idiot.
—Jack Underwood


before then for sure
before one pink flip-flop loses another
before we discover
plastic recycling is a fraud
before the virus becomes perpetual
before we become petulant
before our palms sweat
before we degenerate
and our humor gets morbid
before we fall.



Wendy Taylor Carlisle

Wendy Taylor Carlisle lives and writes in the Arkansas Ozarks. She is the 2020 winner of the Phillip H. McMath Post-Publication Award for The Mercy of Traffic and this spring, Doubleback Books reprinted her 2008 book, Discount Fireworks, available free at: Doubleback Books. Her website is www.wendytaylorcarlisle.com. Photo by Greg Comnes.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, September 26, 2022 - 22:06