Assault of Angels


by Michael Roberts

The mind trembles from the assault of angels;

Running in familiar light it sees the sea,

It remembers the dark subway and the lost fields of childhood,

It remembers the loneliness of first love and the end of a summer:

These are familiar and small.


But the assault of angels is more terrible: angels are invisible,

Angels cast no shadow, and their unpredicted motion

Moves the familiar shadows into light.

Angels cannot burn the fingers: unacknowledged,

They pass unseen. No one will ever know.

Refuse them: they have no claim to charity,

To ignore them offers a key to omniscience.

Angels breed darkness out of light, angels rejoice

In things we hate and fear.


Angels are the launching of a new ship,

Angels offer to inhabit the landscape of your body,

Angels will let you grow as a child grows,

They are your enemy: they will destroy you.


And a time comes when a man is afraid to grow,

A time comes when the house is comfortable and narrow.

A time when the spirit of life contracts.

Angels are at your door: admit them, now.

Artist: Elizabeth McKee

Accordion folded book

Size : closed  W22" x H37" x D10" — open approximately 33’ long

Medium: Acrylic paint and gesso on handmade paper mounted

on foam core board which is backed with Ugandan bark cloth.

Weight: about 70 lbs (without a box)

Housed in: a 60 lb custom-made dark blue box

built by Cabbage Cases in Columbus, Ohio.


I started working on this book in 1998 while living in Kenya and continued to work on it in Uganda in from 1999–2000 and in Maryland from 2000 – 2003. I painted all of the pages with my left hand which is my non-dominant hand. While binding the book in 2003 I developed a severe allergy to bark cloth and PVA and was ordered by every doctor whom I encountered to stop working on it. One told me to put it in a wooden box and drive a stake through it. In 2004 we moved to Russia so it was put in storage for three years while my immune system was fixed. I am no longer allergic to bark cloth and I am careful to wear gloves while working with PVA. I finished the front cover in September.


Michael Roberts was an English poet who died in 1948 of leukemia. I found this poem in The Faber Book of Modern Verse edited by Michael Roberts, in the late 80’s around the time when my husband started talking about moving us from Ottawa to Bangladesh. I remember sitting in our living room in Ottawa and telling a visitor that I was “very comfortable here.” So the line “A time comes when the house is comfortable and narrow.” resonated with me.  The image for the section “Angels are at your door: admit them now.” eluded me until after 9/11/01 when I picked up my brush one day and finished the image as my intuitive response to that event.

Click on this YouTube link for a short video of the book.


Book 57

Cabbage Cases Assault of Angels