The Seventh Angel

by Zhigniew Herbert

The seventh angel
is completely different
even his name is different

he is not like Gabriel
the golden
pillar on the throne
and baldachin

nor like Raphael
the choir tuner

nor even Azrael
engineer of the planets
geometer of infinity
splendid exponent of theoretical physics

is black and nervous
and has been fined many times for
illegal import of sinners

between the abyss
and the heavens
without a rest his feet go pit-a-pat

his sense of dignity is non-existent
and they only keep him in the squad
out of consideration for the number seven

but he is not like the others
not like the hetman of the hosts
all scales and feathery plumes

nor like Azrafael
interior decorator of the universe
warden of its luxuriant vegetation
his wings shimmering like two oak trees

not even like
apologist and cabalist

Szemkel Szemkel
... the angels complain
why can't you be splendid?

the Byzantine artists
when they paint all seven
reproduce Szemkel
just like the rest

because they fear
they might lapse into heresy
if they were to portray him
just as he is
black nervous
with his old halo tarnished.

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