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A pause.  The presents are wrapped, the guests have gone home, our children have been kissed goodnight, and somewhere, not far away,

Father Christmas is waiting to swoop down to deliver presents that are eagerly anticipated.  Faith is no barrier to his arrival.  He comes whether they believe in him or not. 


Soon the midnight mass will begin in the tiny country church, miles from any settlement.  Between now and then there is peace and quiet and time for thoughts. 


Merry Christmas to all my readers, whoever and wherever you are – to those I know, and to those I’ll never know.  I wish you all peace and happiness for the next few days, and then more in 2009.


Questions About Angels

by Billy Collins


Of all the questions you might want to ask

about angels, the only one you ever hear

is how many can dance on the head of a pin.


No curiosity about how they pass the eternal time

besides circling the Throne chanting in Latin

or delivering a crust of bread to a hermit on earth

or guiding a boy and girl across a rickety wooden bridge.


Do they fly through God’s body and come out singing?

Do they swing like children from the hinges

of the spirit world saying their names backwards and forwards?

Do they sit alone in little gardens changing colors?


What about their sleeping habits, the fabric of their robes,

their diet of unfiltered divine light?

What goes on inside their luminous heads? Is there a wall

these tall presences can look over and see hell?


If an angel fell off a cloud, would he leave a hole

in a river and would the hole float along endlessly

filled with the silent letters of every angelic word?


If an angel delivered the mail, would he arrive

in a blinding rush of wings or would he just assume

the appearance of the regular mailman and

whistle up the driveway reading the postcards?


No, the medieval theologians control the court.

The only question you ever hear is about

the little dance floor on the head of a pin

where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.


It is designed to make us think in millions,

billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse

into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:

one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,

a small jazz combo working in the background.


She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful

eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over

to glance at his watch because she has been dancing

forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.