Complaint of the Angel in the Cornell Box
By Marjorie Stelmach
It’s a narrow life: stale air,
muffled rumblings from beyond
the glass, light comes and goes.
She knows her place—
strung on a wire—and it’s not
unbearable, except she doesn’t sleep.
she watches her reflection
in the glass. At dawn, when light
erases her, she catalogs his studio’s
acorns, beads, pressed flowers,
tarnished keys, corks and clocks,
wheels. Nothing like studios
in the Age of Faith.
But times change.
Inside the glass, lesser creatures
share her space, permanently
Winged like her, but stuffed.
She allows herself no commerce
with their kind. They are
Tacked at her back hang
antique faces of fat-cheeked winds
clipped from old maps, a stave
and treble clef,
sepia star charts. Perhaps
a comfort to the others? She herself
has no such need. Maybe they’re
meant as symbols:
constellations to evoke
migrations, maps to mark
the wintering lands, sheet music
as a prod toward
What’s the point? These birds
won’t be singing anytime soon.
she is his centerpiece here,
but it seems wrong. Where are
the mother and child, the saints
the haloes? Still, he chose
her for this. She will abide.
All he asks is that she shall not want.
Her order renounced
desire ages back,
but it’s still a lot to ask, given
that want is surely what stirs him
to collect, arrange,
and cage. Why else these
shelves of cramped boxes, dusty
props, stopped hearts? Why else this
and longing? She never thought
he’d leave her here this long,
alone, unlooked upon.
one day she would be taken up,
assigned a place where she might
serve a purpose,
beyond this diminished realm
of airlessness and dust. If she has
failed him, it’s his fault. It was he
who taught her
what it is to want: to choose,
to create, to control. What she wants
is out. How dare he turn her to
an emblem of
lost faith? She wants her place
in history back, wants to be part
of a work in progress. If this
is progress, she wants
no part of Art.