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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.

9 comments

9 Comments


winestone.poet
Feb 21

“The Angel With The Broken Wing” is one of my favorite poems of all time, and I thank David Gosselin for bringing it to my attention some months ago. This piece is ineffably sublime and exquisite, and it makes me think of how our technocratic, materialist society has lost touch with the sacred connection that we all have to the Divine. I think it comes as close to being a perfect poem as one can get. Whenever I read it, I find that this passage in particular really jumps out at 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…


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martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Feb 22
Replying to

Dana Gioia is a fine poet with a high standard of excellence, like all the poets I admire. It gives one hope for the future of poetry. Perhaps a poetry renaissance is close at hand. In any case, you and I and a few others are doing our best to usher one. Hopefully, David will come up with another video just as captivating as this one.

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Cindy Erlandson
Cindy Erlandson
Jan 16

I've read this one before. It is exquisite. "Their candle stretched my shadow up the wall"; "For even the godless feel something in a church..." As Martin has said, there are too many excellent lines to quote them all.

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jm6783685
jm6783685
Jan 16

The thing that first strikes me about this poem is how every line is exactly regular except where irregular things start to happen. You see, that's one of the virtues of regularity (apart of course from it's complete nonarbitrariness): that it can be used to bring about, and even emphasise, such effects.


(Which suggests perhaps that our lines are so disordered these days because our lives are even more disordered. Which seems a pity. Can disordered lives, and their concomitant disordered emotions, do anything except signal their despair? Can they ever achieve the blessings of wisdom? Surely they demand more than they proffer. And the only thing they can possibly teach us is an answering distress.)


This, it should go…

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martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Jan 16

This poem is exquisite! It has so many good lines that I could quote almost all of them, but I'll settle for this: 'Perhaps I am a masterpiece of sorts / The perfect emblem of futility.'

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glennwright652
Jan 16

This is a very moving expression of how the violence and materialism in today’s world has damaged the spiritual values that sustained previous generations. Lovely job.

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martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Jan 16
Replying to

I agree.

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