Angels are out tonight

By Patrick T. Reardon

Tonight, the typewriter keys slam rhythm

to ease coarse electricity under the skin.

The Sister of the Sacred Heart pleads alms

and sweats under her habit

as angels stride thickly east and west on her sidewalk.

Angels fly complex patterns

over the drunk anesthesiologist and the beautiful child.

Angels are out tonight.

The boy rocks his body right and left

to sleep

as angels whisper green forests in his ear

without mentioning the future gun,

a charity.

Angels are out tonight

as the fox scouts among the headstones,

as the sigh ends in stillness,

as Brother Pain is traded for Sister Death.

Tonight, angels are on the wind,

like a tune up the sidewalk,

like the white paint piers of the elevated,

like the ocean of police marching State Street,

Newman’s jolly coppers, the white-glove parade.

Down the court run fast-break angels,

in the chemistry moment,

actions and reactions,

without finish or start.

Angels are out tonight,

lining the beige nursing home walls,

and planless fireflies starscape the orphan shelter lawn.

Angels with assumed names

mingle the Cubs crowd tonight after a loss

and smoke Winstons outside the gay bar

and close up shop, lowering

the commercial-grade,


stainless-steel security door

with a thud.

Tonight, as the handgun rusts,

angels are out,

as ballerinas pirouette the Bible verse

along the red-brick wall,

as the sacristan eats his Filet-O-Fish,

as the lawyer in her sweats

stands on the suburban balcony

overlooking an industrial park

and tries to remember

the name of the kindergarten boy who vomited.

Angels are out tonight.

Angels embrace sorrow tonight,

finding storm within the storm.

They crowd tables in the Taylor Street trattoria,

drinking water and wine and breaking bread

before the elbow macaroni arrives, parsleyed,

the last supper of the night.

Angels run a marathon tonight along Lake Shore Drive.

Wearing orange vests, they dig a ditch with loud machines.

They sing gospel songs

and blues hymns

and country & western anthems

and Ubi Caritas.

In the sanctuary, a lieutenant kneels.

Angels echo in the high church space

along the stained-glass annunciation.

My soul magnifies, she said.

Angels are out tonight.

As I walk along Clark Street

through the cold night to apologize,

angels hide in the space behind the street lights,

and my sister balances

the weight of all that has come and all that will happen,

and my mother’s ashes are harmless,

and the aunt who saved my life

is willowy and curly blond still

in the backyard with the baby I was.

Latter-day angels tonight are out, 

and bicoastal angels, 

and special needs angels, 

and glass-half-full angels, 

Latin-rite angels, 

strip club angels, 

handyman angels, 

service dog angels, 

the heavenly host in mufti. 

Tonight, the woman

wearing eight layers of pants and six shirts, 

asleep in the tent on the Broadway sidewalk

amid metal restaurant tables and chairs

is with angels

swinging like the little girl she once was,

rising up,

swooping back,

legs building height,

and, at the top of her high, high arc,

she lets go

and flies up and out,

into the light, 

the biblical furnace

where all pain is burned off like dross,

revealing pure.

At the alderman’s office, the precinct captain

takes the call and dispatches a crew of angels

to fill the potholes on a short street outside the ward,

through inattention or devotion or commotion or obligation

or corruption or inspiration or sedation or kindness.

Angels are out tonight.

The Pope works as a bouncer.

The Boston Celtic drives a hack.

A poem is written on the alley wall of a downtown hotel

in pencil on sooty bricks, never to be read.

And angels stir the coffee

in every cup on every table 

in the hotel’s rooftop restaurant

and two miles away at the homeless refuge

and in the Mayor’s kitchen

and after the banker has said the rosary

and untouched between lovers

bending toward each other

and whispering, unknowing, the secret of breathing.

Angels are out tonight.

Michael and Gabriel, Uriel and Raphael,

Jegudiel, Selaphiel, Barachiel,

the thrones and dominations,

the cherubim and seraphim,

tonight amble the glittered Andersonville pavement

and climb the shadowed Englewood apartment stairs

and sit at the edge of dark in the Glenview yard

where a man who knows he is dying 

barbecues for the ones inside,

each tock and tick mundane and solemn.

Tonight, angels sleep on the Red Line

from Howard to 95th and back and back and back.

Tonight, Tri-State Tollway motorists

barrel through the I-Pass lanes,

avoiding the tollbooth angels chanting the Daily Office.

Tonight, angels fall asleep in the ice-white television light.

Angels fight on the carpet

until Mom takes the plastic baby away from them.

Angels in the hotel room

can’t take their clothes off fast enough.

Angels are out tonight,

running around the university track,

each step an eternity, each exhalation another Big Bang.

In the Sovereign Tap, angels caress their Miller Lites

and watch Fred Astaire in The Royal Wedding

in between used car commercials.

Angels tonight await the Second Coming, 

know they need, 

know they want,

know they have no idea,

feel the high wearing off, 

leave a backpack on the platform, 

take an extra base, 



run at the nose, 

run on empty, 

run to danger. 

In the silence above the alleys,

angels are out tonight

as urgent rats,

worshipped in India,

revered in Rome and China and Old Japan,

jitter from hole to hole, the volted circuit.

Tonight, early drafts are put through the shredder

for no reason but delight at spaghetti-ed paper,

a dry meal of textured wonder and portent,

a gluten-free repast and echo of the halls of heaven.

Patrick T. Reardon


This poem originally appeared in The Write Launch on 9.4.19.

Written by : Patrick T. Reardon

For more than three decades Patrick T. Reardon was an urban affairs writer, a feature writer, a columnist, and an editor for the Chicago Tribune. In 2000 he was one of a team of 50 staff members who won a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting. Now a freelance writer and poet, he has contributed chapters to several books and is the author of Faith Stripped to Its Essence. His website is

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