In Vancouver, British Columbia – down by the waterfront near the wharves, right on the plaza where the tourists stream steadily past – there is a larger than life statue, a memorial to all the military men and women who have lost their lives fighting for Canada. The angel is set to soar, one arm arched high above its head, while draping an obviously dead soldier over the other. With careful attention to detail —the kind look on the angel’s face; its seeming ease in lifting the soldier, no visible strain as the angel’s feet dangle as loosely as the whole of the soldier’s limp body; the resignation of death on the young soldier’s face— the sculptor has managed to create something very special here. I find myself going back to my photographs of this tableau again and again, continually inspired to write new poems, stories, even essays. This is one.

Dearest Dark Angel

She had been searching for him everywhere, it seemed
How odd then to see him on the wing of the dark angel
Just there at the edge of the busy harbour

With gulls wheeling round and noisy, scratching the sky, he ready
To be flown off for eternity, if the angel’s stance was any indication
Her innocent brave young son, dressed up like a soldier man

Blood, discernible even through the statue’s grime and blackness
In the folds of the angel’s robes, though fixed, appeared to swirl
As it dripped from the brow beneath the boy’s inadequate helmet
Almost, but not quite, hiding the look of desperate resignation
Set upon his baby face like an unsolved puzzle to carry to his grave

Involuntarily, she reached out, called to the angel to stop, oh please
Halt angel of death, don’t take leave of this place with my boy just yet
For I have need of him and have looked the world over for him
To find him finally and lose him, all in one swoop of your wings
Feels too unfair to bear, you do see what I mean, I’m sure, angel

The angel – guide of lost souls, dead soldiers, and their mothers— stayed on
Gave the mother time to study the shell once her son, take in her loss afresh
Reconcile her grief again and work at letting go of her baby, her boy, her own

She stood as if nailed in place, memorizing the tableau, until the sun fled the sky
And before the moon chanced to throw its light on the scene, she was gone.

(a version of this poem is archived on


12 thoughts on “DEAREST DARK ANGEL

  1. I haven’t seen this statue, but now I’ll make a point of looking for it next time I’m at the coast. You’ve expressed one mother’s pain and hope— and every mother’s pain and hope.

  2. Wonderful poem, I too will have to find this spot my next trip to Vancouver. Seeing the picture of this statue many thoughts came flooding in would like to see it in person. Thanks for sharing this

  3. Your magical realism in this poem has created an incredibly moving scenario, with excellent attention to detail – both concrete and emotional.
    Thank you for participating in “Poetry for Peace” on Real Toads.

  4. Thank you so much Pearl, Julie, Rosemary and again, Sherry – I have a soft-spot for this poem and revise it occasionally and try and read it aloud at peace or anti-war rallies once or twice a year … it gets good response usually … thanks for sharing your responses to it; I truly appreciate them.

  5. Sharon, this is beautiful; I had tears in my eyes as I read it. A very moving poem, wonderfully written. ~ Julie

  6. This is a fantastic write – you have captured it all so well – the angel, the youth of the soldier, the mother’s grief……………really really good. Thanks so much! I must look for that statue next time I’m in Van!

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