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after walter benjamin on a painting by paul klee

see his angel of history
with wings out-spread
turn to face the past
and stare open-mouthed
at the single catastrophe

his world lies wrecked
before him all is ruin
though he looks fixedly
he sees memories fading
blown from view

that storm in paradise
that raged in the past
he sees it raging still
the angel cannot stop it
wants to but cannot stay

wants to redeem our state
from the mere mind
and the leaden heart
wants to make whole
what is dashed and lost

but his wings are caught
in the maelstrom
it propels him backwards
irresistibly out of time
leaving us to progress

under the piling ash
that grows skywards
minute by minute
we sift from the debris
vestiges of hope

Paul Klee, ‘Angelus Novus’, 1920, Oil transfer and watercolour on paper, 31.8 x 24.2 cm. Israel Museum, Jerusalem.