The night angel in my head
is born to command.
She conducts the dark chant of my dreams
imperiously, in a robe of golden feathers.
Lately both midnight and dawn
she’s been pointing rocksteady as a gun dog
at our tottery Capitol building.
“Look at those pillars of white granite, the hardest stone known,
buckling under the rhinoceros weight of mendacity and greed.
Look at those spittle-drooling hyenas in their foul jamboree,
doing hip rolls and shimmy shakes
in our marble halls where the good would walk.
Falcons and kestrels used to nest in the dome,
“You must conduct a cleansing ceremony
for the sick body of the Capitol.
You must strengthen its caved-in rib cage,
jolt alive the tranced beat of its heart.
Burn sage and sweet grass in a vast iron skillet
and stride through every room in the Capitol,
smoking out the moulting buzzards,
their hooked beaks dripping with rotting meats.
Wave smoke pure as pearls over butter-tubs
where the king rats wallow.
“When the sage is burned clear
open the Capitol door and fling out
the molten skillet with its
airy shrouds of ghost leaf ash.
It will be followed by a frantic rush of demons
baying for their lives. Slam the door tight after them,
turn and breathe in air sweet as honeycomb.
A single gorgeously curly feather drifts past the window
white as smoke in the grey winter twilight.
The golden lady standing on the dome
smiles with joy.
The kestrels and peregrines fly home.
Margaret Savides Benbow is the only University of Wisconsin alumnus to have won the George B. Hill Award in Poetry four different years. Since then, her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, and have received many awards. Her collectionStalking Joy was given the Walt McDonald First Book prize. She’s now completed a second, Wild Women in Old Movies. Benbow also writes short stories, which have been widely published. Her story collection Boy Into Panther was a finalist in the Iowa Short Fiction contest. Benbow has also won a Wisconsin Arts Board grant in Fiction.