Putto with bird and cage

A cherub drops out of the sky in the night,
plumps onto the balcony
outside the study window.
I see him through the bedroom window
where I lay awake in a dream.

I see dark hair, naked
fat limbs in a crouch
like a Raphael or Botticelli putto —
eyes crinkling, mouth in a smirk.

And ask him what he's
laughing about.
He hums
a Jackson tune I know.

I catch the words
redemption and
barricades and
want to know why that
is funny.

I say, "I am working out my
It is serious business."

He says, "It's play."

I think about that.
I play with words at that
study desk and on that
balcony between the
where I nap and dream.

Now he's humming
about Jackson's lights
and a vision of a blessing.

But my pages, this cherub
reminds me, are destined to
rip, ignite, bleach, blow

Only the playing I do
accompanies me
to heaven.


Thank you for the inspiration, Mr. Browne, in all your songs. Did you know they hum your tunes in heaven? I hear you laughing. I am serious. Could be they sang them there first, before you did.

Illustration courtesy Art Institute of Chicago. Detail from "Two Putti with a Bird." Francois Boucher, French. (1703-1770). Etching on cream laid paper. Gift of Dorothy Braude Edinburg to the Harry B. and Bessie K. Braude Memorial Collection.