Angel and Stone 2


Photo by Alison Stone, from Dr. Stone’s Stone Garden

Since today is the feast of the guardian angels, I wanted to share a link back to an old post of my (They’re all old at this point) on our airy friends, Guardian Angels, along with my favorite poem — no joke, this one’s my all time favorite. 


Angel and Stone, by Howard Nemerov

In the world are millions and millions of men, and each man,
With a few exceptions, believes himself to be at the center,
A small number of his more or less necessary planets careening
Around him in an orderly manner, some morning stars singing together,
More distant galaxies shining like dust in any stray sunbeam
Of his attention. Since this is true not of one man or of two,
But of ever so many, it is hard to imagine what life must be like.
But if you drop a stone into a pool, and observe the ripples
Moving in circles successively out to the edge of the pool and then
Reflecting back and passing through the ones which continue to come
Out of the center over the sunken stone, you observe it is pleasing.
And if you drop two stones it will still be pleasing, because now
The angular intersections of the two sets form a more complicated
Pattern, a kind of reticulation regular and of simple origins.
But if you throw a handful of sand into the water, it is confusion,
Not because the same laws have ceased to obtain, but only because

The limits of your vision in time and number forbid you to discriminate
Such fine, quick, myriad events as the angels and archangels, thrones
And dominations, principalities and powers, are delegated to witness
And declare the glory of before the lord of everything that is.
Of these great beings and mirrors of being, little at present is known,
And of the manner of their perceiving not much more. We imagine them
As benign, as pensively smiling and somewhat coldly smiling, but
They may not be as we imagine them. Among them there are some who

The grassblades and the grains of sand by one and one and one
And number the raindrops and memorize the eccentricities of snowflakes.
One of the greater ones reckons and records the times of time,
Distinguishing the dynasties of Mountains, races, cities,
As they rise, flower and fall, to whom an age is as a wave,
A nation the spray thrown from its crest; and one, being charged
With all the crossing moments, the coming-together and drivings-apart,
Reads in the chromatin its cryptic scripture as the cell divides;
And one is the watcher over chance events and the guardian of disorder
According to the law of the square root of n, so that a certain number
Of angels or molecules shall fall in irrelevance and be retrograde.
So do they go, those shining creatures, counting without confusion
And holding in their slow immeasurable gaze all the transactions
Of all the particles, item by atom, while the pyramids stand still
In the desert and the deermouse huddles in his hole and the rain falls
Piercing the skin of the pool with water in water and making a million
And a million designs to be pleasingly latticed and laced and interfused
And mirrored to the Lord of everything that is by one and one.


  1. Happy Feast of The Guardian Angels. Long ago, as a grade school teacher of second graders, my students would wear gold Christmas garland crowns to mass to celebrate this beautiful day. How I miss those sweet innocent days when such a simple gesture could evoke the imagination of children and teach them reverence.

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