Each molecule of air shines—
the angel having vanished—
and a skirt of shimmer flicks
off dust-dried plaster walls,
scuffed floor. Each shadow
lies: angled, obedient. This
room, apparently empty. But
no room is wholly bare, where
messengers appear. Who
flame the air with feathers to
deliver words, holy seeds in ears.
Bright-blinded, the woman
has felt her way along the wall,
not yet grasping that Exit is
out of any question. Her plain
cloak hazes toward cerulean.
Gold motes sift down the dazzle
of light restless behind her
fleeing feet. Yet she pauses, turns
back to look. Half-in, half-out
the salt threshold. Her womb,
no longer hers, filling. Filled.
This ambiguous gift: crossed
in cords of thorn. Delivered.
Yet to be delivered. Suspended
at the sill, she strokes a brush-
burn—one departing wing’s
careless lash on her bare wrist—
as though she’d been branded.
Claimed. Nothing lies empty
here: not the numinous chamber,
not the redbudburst of her womb,
nor the seared box of her heart,
which flutters its singed petals
like sparrow wings—frantic,
netted. Only the angel escapes.
JUDITH H. MONTGOMERY lives in Bend, Oregon. Her books are Passion, which received the Oregon Book Award for Poetry, Red Jess, and Pulse & Constellation. Her work will be included in a forthcoming special portfolio, “Women and the Global Imagination,” from Prairie Schooner. These poems are from a new manuscript, Cicatrix; she has accepted a residency at Playa to complete the manuscript.