Evening Angelus

By Joyce Sutphen b. 1949 Joyce Sutphen
I have forgotten the words,
and therefore I shall not conceive
of a mysterious salvation, I shall
not become a tall lily and bloom
into blue and white. Then what
oracular event shall appear on
my doorstep? What announcement
shall crowd me to a corner,
protesting an unworthiness,
which doubtless shall be believed?

But these are only bells we hear,
pulled down by the arms of the
drunken janitor, two fingers missing
on his left hand. And we have
climbed into that tower, its spiraling
wooden staircase creaking beneath our
feet. We have seen for ourselves
that it is only iron that rings, iron
swinging on an iron bar, the rough rope
threading down to the cold ground,
no death or holiness in
those hollow shells.

Joyce Sutphen, “Evening Angelus” from Straight Out of View (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Joyce Sutphen. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Straight Out of View (Beacon Press, 1995)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Joyce Sutphen b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Faith & Doubt, Religion

 Joyce  Sutphen


Joyce Sutphen grew up on a farm in Minnesota. She earned a PhD in Renaissance drama from the University of Minnesota, and has taught British literature and creative writing at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. Her first collection of poems, Straight Out of View (1995), won the Barnard Women’s Poets Prize. Subsequent collections include Coming Back to the Body (2000), a Minnesota Book Award finalist, Naming the . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Faith & Doubt, Religion

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.