Dangling above the desert floor
like a spider on a web strand in a strong wind,
I wonder the wisdom in having chosen
as my anchor that which answers to nothing—
drawn to the solitary sentinel
with nothing in the night watch to watch over.
Does a falling body thud
if there’s no one in ear shot of the impact?
And what of the exalted shout
upon claiming the summit? Is that silent
too, high on the head of Dark Angel
at the point of the pillar aimed up at heaven
(criss-crossed with crevice and miniscule crack
by the whipping of the wind-driven rain lash
unimpeded by shield or screen)?
This is the towering inverted dungeon
its old language languishing, left as a relic,
ever enamored with the whistle of wind
(which whets its blade beneath its sound)
singing the end of need, of relishing
thinking of never again having cause to bow down.
Climbing Dark Angel continues my series of poems inspired by famous sandstone formations in Arches National Monument, a project which aims to reflect on the nature of human becoming by exploring rich metaphors that these formations (and their colorful names) offer. This poem explores the dark side of rejecting community, thinking of the daring rock climber who prefers to scale the cliff wall alone. In Biblical imagery the "dark angel" conjures up Satan, the beautiful angel who preferred autonomy to submission in God's glorious company (Better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven, says Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost). The poem also alludes to the infamous Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) which also serves as a symbol of the allure and the curse of seeking independence, of relishing the thought of never having to bow to anyone or anything. The results of such independence are not all they are cracked up to be (pun intended!).