angel benwill
by Paula J. Lambert

For such is the tooth of the lion. That it bares and bursts into wishes.
— Patti Smith

One night, at bedtime,
my father explained to my sisters and me
the work of our guardian angels. My questions
kept us all awake—the opposite, I’m sure,
of what he intended. Always beside us?
No matter what? They don’t ever sleep?
Yes, yes, no, no not ever.

When my father finally left us,
turning out the light, I shifted to the side of the bed,
making room. Angels can sleep here, I said
silently, my sisters starting to drowse.
(I figured guardians could hear like God did,
like it sometimes seemed fathers did, too.)
It’s safe. Daddy is right downstairs.

Truth be told, I’ve not thought much about angels
since. But lately, in a crazed world of climate crises
and the stubborn flailings of viral disease,
I’ve remembered my father’s insistence
that the guardian beside me never sleeps.
I’ve let myself wonder if, in his own infinite kindness
and wisdom, he has relieved my vigilant angel
at last—my sisters’ too—standing beside us himself.
Always. No matter what. Not ever sleeping, ever.

PAINTING: Glorified Grace Angel by BenWill, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paula J. Lambert has published several collections of poetry including The Ghost of Every Feathered Thing (FutureCycle 2022) and How to See the World (Bottom Dog 2020). Awarded PEN America’s L’Engle-Rahman Prize for Mentorship, Lambert’s poetry and prose have been supported by the Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Her work has been nominated for several Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband Michael Perkins, a philosopher and technologist. More at