January 4, 2021

Angel Fixed in Stone, By Kim Malinowski

Editor’s note: As we round out the 2011 angels and fairies theme this month, Kim Malinowski brings us a gorgeous and touching fairy tale filled with sorry and beauty and hope. Enjoy!

She realized long after the process had started that angels could be turned into stone. With every prayer, with each tear, her ethereal marrow, her graceful flesh, slowly changed. Without a glimmer of realization, she began creaking into hardness. She did not know to fear, and perhaps would have embraced her destiny had she known. This did not mean she was lost or did not feel divine mercy. She did not know what caused her ache, but she knew she could still hear and help the suffering and even the dying. But it was the mortals’ pleas that caused the damage, as if divine will could damage even an angel.

The humans’ bleeding wounds and their begging for tattered hearts to be mended. Each petitioner’s need calcified her as she loved them. She blessed them in granite. Their prayers cemented her. She crooned lullabies for their salvation. She kissed the valiant off to war. All the things angels ought to do, but none of it was permanent—only her.

She felt the warmth of flickering candles and prayer. Those she blessed wished for her to save them. They wanted her to save everyone in the village, give peace to everyone on earth. She, of course, wished this too. But she could not understand the stiffness of her shoulders or how her heavy limbs sank into the dirt. She focused on her capture. And then, she would forget it with the first rays of sun. She would beat her wings each morning and rise to the heavens. She felt renewed by the sun’s energy and heaven’s grace. She sang songs of remembrance for herself. Then, she floated back to the earth as if on wisp a of cloud at dusk.

The pilgrims waited patiently for her arrival. Each time though, she was heavier, even her breathing was more labored. She felt her pelvis stiffen and it would not loosen, not even during prayer. Worse, each time she rose, it became harder for her to fly. She claimed these people’s fear. She sang away grief and eased deaths. She knew she was burdened by their depravity and love. But after prayer and vigil, the men and women were lighter. They blew kisses to her and sang brightly. She knew that they were better for coming to her. That made any sacrifice she made worth it.

As time went on, her vast wings pounded through fog and blizzard, and even spring petals. But she became rooted. Her feet were firmly planted, as if her toes were mired in mud. She was no longer able to fly. She was cemented by wax, desperation, and the pilgrims’ and villagers’ need for companionship. They needed someone to watch over them and their land. They needed her. And even though bound to earth, she knew she needed them just as much. She had bound herself to the land as much as the divine had.

She blessed the mortals and taught them to pray. She led them gently to forgiveness. She accomplished even the most difficult of tasks—teaching them to forgive themselves. The dead were laid at her solidified feet and she beat her wings and blew her sacred breath over them. She chanted each of them off to heaven. Each prayer, each candle, and especially her tears, made her more rigid. Already, she lived the life of a statue. She only felt like her angel-self when helping someone. As the snows began falling, those who had nowhere to go, huddled by her feet. She offered protection with long robes billowing from her arms. Even her garments began to harden. Her robes covered the needy and the pigeons rested on her halo.

She feared not being able to help. She did not fear being petrified. She knew through grace that even some trees became stone—monuments of time and beauty. Some angels were thought to be carved out of stone. She now knew better. She was becoming a statue. She was transforming into a piece of art. She found solace in the men and women’s worship. She begged for divine love and for miracles. Surely, if a broken man touched her foot, he would become whole or at least have enough strength to press on.

What was prayer anyway? She mulled as another molecule became granite. She was made up of millions of prayers. Wasn’t that art? Wasn’t that divine love and grace? Wasn’t that purpose? Her gown and robes became even more solid. They did not billow. They mocked the gauziness and felt starched, as if carved from a block of stone dragged from quarry. They became as much of as a statue as the wearer.

Still, there was work to be done. Women and men, even light-footed children, came for blessings. She waved her hand over their brows. Then later, she could only wiggle her finger. Then even later, only her nail trembled. The people could feel her power and blessings, though. More candles appeared and there was such love and devotion. She knew the divine had brought her here—to this place, to this town, to this plaza.

She knew love destroyed. She saw it destroy countless marriages. She saw it ransack wronged lovers who begged for reconciliation or revenge. Those lovers that had done wrong pleaded with her for relief and forgiveness. Then, in a moment of solitude, she realized that love would destroy her. It was a solemn realization and a quiet one. She prayed for hours over it. Then days.

She was being turned into granite—or concrete—rock—and these things while hard, weathered. She would be turned into sand and float away to the sea. She understood love had a cost. There was always a penalty. She loved the people and so her wings had stopped beating. Soon, they could not even vibrate. They flew behind her, but as stone. No one carved her, but there she was, becoming art. The divine carving her into love—into symbol.

There were more candles and more tears. So much despair and death and love. All a cycle. She wanted to know if she was part of a cycle? What would happen when she could no longer cry? When her tears would not drip onto wounds and heal?

One day she felt the etherealness leave. Her skirts were stuck in perpetual breeze and her lips did not move for prayer. Her heart felt like it would burst and she prayed. And prayed. And prayed. One last molecule. Gone. She was stone. Carved by the One himself.

She felt no beating heart, no flapping wings… And even in her rigidness, a sobbing woman lay broken at her rooted feet, begging, calling out—and she cried over her. This one was the last tear. Tear ducts calcified. And then, the woman fled, healed and light—almost floating like she had once done.

She felt a tear try to fall and felt a thunderous crack. The fracture started at the nape of her neck—all of the humans’ penance. The crack caressed her neck with all of the love she had given and received. Her stone head fell into time. It broke into sand or was buried or carried to the sea. Her dust was held in pockets for good fortune. She blessed believers as they touched her legs and brushed palms across her skirt. The people were desperate for miracles and she performed many.

She gave and she gave. Divine energy flowed from her rock form. Particles disappeared into ether. Pilgrims came to collect dew at the soles of her feet. Beggars felt safe by her and were given enough for dinner each evening. She could do that much at least. She still stands guard. Headless, but caught in beauty—a rock of salvation and refuge. With each tear that is wept at her feet she knows that, in time, she will become a whole angel, and she will once again fly.


Bio: Kim Malinowski is a lover of words. Her debut poetry collection is forthcoming from Kelsay Books. Her chapbook Death: A Love Story was published by Flutter Press. Her work was featured in Faerie Magazine/Enchanted Living and Eternal Haunted Summer. She writes because the alternative would be unthinkable. Visit her website at http://www.kimmalinowskipoet.com/.


Image by Kayla Koss for Unsplash.


Claire Rosser said...

That angel in the photo... from Samothrace , which I think is in the Louvre, has stayed in my mind and I’m sure the minds of the millions who have seen her. Such beauty. To have a story about this angel, to think hard about what angels are expected to do in human lives, is a treasure. Thank you, Kim. This is called the Winged Victory, and the way Kim tells it, it’s not the victory of the usual battlefield, it is the victory in the human struggle against disease and suffering. We need angels, and they are present among us.

Kelly Jarvis said...

This is just beautiful, Kim. It will forever change the way I look at angel statues and contemplate the burdens of prayer. Lovely <3

Gabby said...

Not sure if the picture inspired the story or if it was found after the story was done, but it is a perfect complement to this tale. Tragically beautiful.

Katew said...

It’s a truly lovely, heartfelt story.

Katew said...

Of course! I kept staring at it, and I’m so glad you mentioned “Winged Victory.” It looked so familiar.

A lovely comment. Thank you!

Katew said...

“Tragically beautiful.” Well put.

Kate Powell Shine said...

This is so sad, and so beautiful.