Fooling the Angel

Ken Fifer final headshot 2

When my grandmother was sick

her parents changed her name

in order to fool the Angel of Death.

They gave her an orange,

not to cure her, but to let her taste

light and warmth once

before the Angel returned.

And as she ate, her parents said,

Oh how worthless girl children are,

trying to avoid the Evil Eye.

Then they sent her to New York,

near Yankee Stadium, a place

an Angel might not look right away.

In her first American photos,

two weeks off the boat, she paid

to pose with a buffalo herd and

teepees painted on a screen

behind her. The fringed buckskin,

the beadwork boots,

the cowgirl hat and leather chaps

seemed to her, at sixteen,

neither wasteful nor strange,

but a necessary expense,

her most likely defense,

better than the rental

white-handled pistols.

She returned to Houston Street

a buckaroo,  no longer a green horn.

just another Yankee with two names,

one for real and one to say,

hoping to find Miss Liberty, too,

while trying to evade an Angel’s gaze.

Ken Fifer’s poetry collections include After Fire (March Street Press) and Falling Man (Ithaca House); he has edited three anthologies of poems by children. His poems and translations have appeared in Barrow Street, New Letters, Ploughshares, The Literary Review, and other fine journals. He has a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature from The University of Michigan. He was a 2019 finalist for the Gunpowder Press Book Contest.