Online Exclusive

Green Angel
After the complete failure of the tall motors used to shift the wind toward the ocean, the village became isolated from the others that had been planted along the continent’s jagged black shores. Each morning, just after the sun moves onto the board, a group of men climbed the hill and inspected the motors, all of which were robed in stone. As prescribed by law, the jeweled eyes of each motor faced the black door from which the sun emerged. By noon, all the men had pressed an ear against each motor’s broad chest and heard nothing but the usual rustling of insects. Their reports caused consternation among the elders, but they were cool-headed enough not to let the villagers suspect anything was amiss. It was, they reported, a temporary interruption, not unlike their stay here in this village.

At night the tall men who could still run in a straight line ventured out and waited behind trees or searched the ditches alongside the road cutting across their territory. The men fervently believed they were waiting for a sign, as their elders and their elder’s elders had waited. Forsaken long before they were born, waiting was the burden all of them joyfully shared. Some believed that they would be lifted up by large sleek creatures, others believed in angels, and still others scoured the night skies for a sign that the fleet of arks was finally preparing to make its rendezvous.

One day the men found another possible sign rolled under a carpet of thorny brush. His shoulders had been gashed, two long deep red ruts, as if something had been plucked from his back, and he was naked. Most of the group took the sign’s long limbs and deep wounds as proof that something momentous was about to happen. The men took turns carrying the sign back to the elders who had gathered inside the central lodge, having earlier received the news of the find through the wires planted beneath their heavily veined skulls. A debate ensued which could not be settled until the sign was thoroughly tested. They had found other signs who had perfected nearly convincing disguises, and this one may just be the latest attempt at infiltration by the ones known to slither inside certain unsuspecting shadows.

A handful of trusted women was assigned to nurse the sign back to health, but they were forbidden to speak in his presence. Instead, they had been ordered to erect a tent of silence around him, and to act as if they didn’t notice that he was growing noticeably stronger with each passing day. A strict routine of necessary pleasures was maintained. Days drifted into weeks, and weeks stretched into months. Not a voice was heard in the room where the villagers had sequestered their latest hope for salvation.

One morning the sign made a sound that was unfamiliar to both the women hovering about him and to the men standing guard by the half-open door. It was clear to everyone that the sign was the most recent counterfeit to be issued by the false ones. That night the best fed men smothered the sign, hacked him apart, and placed the twelve numbered parts in a waterproof bag. The following morning, while climbing the hill on which the tall motors stood silent, the men stopped in a small clearing and buried the bag with the others.

John Yau has published many books of poetry, including Borrowed Love Poems (Penguin), and several works of prose, as well as monographs on the work of Jasper Johns, Andy Warhol, and A. R. Penck. His most recent book is a selection of essays, Foreign Sounds or Sounds Foreign (MadHat, 2020). He has a book of poems, Genghis Chan on Drums, forthcoming from Omnidawn in 2021.