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  • The Editors

The Angel with the Broken Wing by Dana Gioia

The Chained Muse and Age of Muses is proud to present the first of many films in its poetry through education series. For our first film, we present Dana Gioia's “The Angel with the Broken Wing.” Filled with deep ironies and spiritual paradoxes, the poem is an exemplar of an ideal poem and the power poetry has to impart memorable wisdom, leaving us with what the poet Robert Frost described as “an immortal wound.” From the countless memorable lines by poets like Homer, Dante, Shakespeare et, which have shaped not only how we think and feel about countless aspects of life, to the sacred reminders seared into the heart as much as the mind by virtue of their immortal beauty and wisdom.

Through poetry, the heart as well as the mind may be spoken to, and bridged in ways that few other mediums across history can. And so, without further ado, we present to you “The Angel with the Broken Wing.”

The Angel with the Broken Wing

By Dana Gioia

I am the Angel with the Broken Wing,

The one large statue in this quiet room.

The staff finds me too fierce, and so they shut

Faith’s ardor in this air-conditioned tomb.

The docents praise my elegant design

Above the chatter of the gallery.

Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts—

The perfect emblem of futility.

Mendoza carved me for a country church.

(His name’s forgotten now except by me.)

I stood beside a gilded altar where

The hopeless offered God their misery.

I heard their women whispering at my feet—

Prayers for the lost, the dying, and the dead.

Their candles stretched my shadow up the wall,

And I became the hunger that they fed.

I broke my left wing in the Revolution

(Even a saint can savor irony)

When troops were sent to vandalize the chapel.

They hit me once—almost apologetically.

For even the godless feel something in a church,

A twinge of hope, fear? Who knows what it is?

A trembling unaccounted by their laws,

An ancient memory they can’t dismiss.

There are so many things I must tell God!

The howling of the damned can’t reach so high.

But I stand like a dead thing nailed to a perch,

A crippled saint against a painted sky.

Dana Gioia is the author of several poetry collections, including 99 Poems: New & Selected (Graywolf Press, 2016); Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001), winner of the American Book Award; The Gods of Winter (Graywolf Press, 1991); and Daily Horoscope (Graywolf Press, 1986). Visit Dana's official website & YouTube page.

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