The poem is a wonderful example of the interweave of story (a limiting factor, to follow Gregory Orr’s categories) and imagination/mental plane (a limitless factor).
THE END OF
When the angels found him sitting in the half light
~ Jack Gilbert
My favorite passage in Gilbert’s poem is:
. . . The one in black
It reminded me of Bergman’s “Seventh Seal” – how the protagonist tries to delay by playing chess, and an actor hopes that there is an exception for actors.
But let’s face it, it’s the unexpected title that startles the reader and makes the poem irresistible. In the context of the poem, it's the title that is the deepest message.
THE LAST WORD
I tried the same writing exercise, but abandoned it when my chief angel emerged as a figure with tattoos and the lingo of a bar bouncer. What a shift away from beautiful, feminine angels! I’d rather stay with the conventional soothing angels. Joseph Campbell says somewhere, “The Angel of Death looks horrific from afar, but she is beautiful when she comes near.”
A very different figure of Thanatos as a handsome young man visited me in a dream that gave rise to this poem:
I climb to Condor Lookout,
the slopes sparkle with moist breath.
Tenderness -- that's what we ultimately want from any angel, isn't it? Even Jack Gilbert's angels (who make me think of the fallen variety) show kindness by letting him write his final messages, though they will not lie out of kindness. And that last truth-telling line in both Gilbert's and Lenny Lianne's poem is perhaps the most interesting one, in terms of human values. We are truth-seekers.