The Song of Jeremiah Gannon: Second Canto

Start with the first canto, here.


In Kokomo Woods, Washington, the angel finds men chained up on the trees. They are lashed to them, arms spread, wrists bloody from the grip, and their bodies are lean.

Around and through the woods move the murmuring beasts called Zagglies.

They feed the men chained to the trees.

They give them water.

When the men beg for freedom, the Zagglies say, “But you have made this destiny, you have shaped it with your hands, you have chosen—have you not—to speak blasphemy of Gannon?”

And the prisoners weep.

The angel moves through the woods and he does not stop until a man calls down, “Sir angel.”

The angel looks up.

The man is cruelly weighted: iron epaulets and iron boots and iron blinders to weight down his head.

But still he speaks.

“It is heavy,” he says.

The angel has a flash of memory. He shakes his head.

His heart is beating faster.

His hands feel cold but yet they sweat.

Panic rises in him.

Because he feels fear, he reaches for his courage. Because he is terrified he does not run. Instead he says, “I am one whom you only need to ask.”

With an eerie, horrid simultaneity as he speaks the Zagglies turn their heads. They focus on the angel. Their bodies straighten. They fall from the trees, if they were in the trees. They rise from their nests, were they sleeping in their nests. They make a gabbling Zaggly noise.

Swiftly moving, swiftly dodging, and when surrounded, swiftly killing, the angel does his work.

A bomb beneath each tree to bring it down, to break the chains.

A bomb beneath each tree save one: for the tree of the man with the iron weights is huge and tall, and the angel must scatter three bombs about its nooks and crannies or this last tree will not fall.

There is silence when he is done; and then a great explosion; and the Kokomo Woods flinders.

It is a great and deathly thing, this freedom from oppression. The people are bloodied and battered. Some are screaming helplessly. They cannot stop because they are not conscious enough to understand. Others limp with bone projecting through their leg.

The angel cannot help.

He moves among the shattered trees and finds the leader of them—the great Kokomo, perhaps, or perhaps he has some other name.

He kneels beside the man.

“You will not survive,” he says. “I’m sorry. I had no other antidote for chains.”

The man breathes horribly. His chest heaves in and out around its shattered ribs. But he takes the angel’s hand.

Then he says, “My boots.”

It is the last thing that he says. It is all that he says.

Carefully, the angel strips the iron goggles from the man; and the iron epaulets; and the iron boots. He walks away.


He has worn boots like these.

He remembers.

He stood on the gallows. He stood on the gallows with his feathered honey hair and he looked out at everyone and he glared. They put the noose around his neck.

And because they feared him so they bound his feet in a great weight of iron before they dropped the trapdoor down.


From Fairy Springs, Washington, he can see the silver carpet of the unexamined sea where Canada once sprawled.

He sits in a little diner and a waitress serves him dry beef pie and a Coke.

He looks in her eyes and he sees a monstrous fear, and so he says, “Fear not.”

But it does no good.

It is a thing to the liking of Jeremiah Gannon when the women are afraid.

She says, “You were that man.”


“You blew up those planes.”

The angel swallows.

It is very difficult to get this bite of beef pie down.

He says, “Was I— was I evil, then?”

But she doesn’t say. She practically looks like her tongue doesn’t work, in fact, and finally she makes a frippery gesture with her hands and moves away.

He leaves the pie to rot there but he takes the bottled Coke.

He tips her with a jewel.

And a strange spirit of courage moves in her, a peculiar defiance, and she tells him, “—By the door.”

There is a bowl by the door with candies and with mints. He fishes out two little candy hearts. Then he is gone.



There is a secret wrapped inside the angel.

Hitchhiking the last few miles to the great wall of Jeremiah Gannon, sleeping curled up against the window of a truck, he dreams of it.

“It is a sacred weapon,” says a Voice.

He looks down at the strange harpoon-like weapon in his hands.

“With this,” says the Voice, “you may pull a man back from the dead, or fetch a prophet to the sky. You may topple the walls of Jericho. You may reel in a whale.”

“What is it?”

“Keep it safe,” says the Voice.


“Keep it secret. Keep it safe. Jeremiah Gannon must not know.”

He imagines what it would be like to shoot through the walls of death and bring a loved one back to life.

To knock the apple from Eve’s hand.

To wrap his arm around some victim and shoot it skywards and pull them up to Heaven.

“It is a thing,” he says, “requiring great discretion.”

And he wakes, the side of his face flat and dirty from the window, and the trucker lets him out and says, “May you live, brother. May you live.”

pause. two beats. the third canto tomorrow or Friday.

3 thoughts on “The Song of Jeremiah Gannon: Second Canto

  1. Apologies for being an echo chamber,
    but I’m trying to reveal the meaning
    to myself, and having trouble.

    An man who was an angel.
    He was and is a bomber.
    He was hanged with iron boots.
    He had no name, no memory, and no sin.

    Now he’s blown up the beasts
    who were Islamists, earning sin in the
    eyes of himself perhaps, and the Quakers
    certainly. He’s also blown up the trees
    of punishment (Kokomo) earning sin in the
    eyes of Gannon.

    This story comes from a morally hard place.
    A place where godliness is quite alien
    from what people like and expect from the world. And worse, false righteousness is
    the embodiment of what a human of narrow
    capacity desires and expects. Humanity
    made falsely into a God is treacherous,
    while godly mercy is bitter.

    I think I might need to rewatch Children of Men just to cheer up.

  2. “You blew up those planes.”

    Yeesh. Somehow I don’t think that many people are going to get how the angel of planted bombs is produced by oppression, not precluded by it.

    I think that I’ll probably have something to write specifically about this series, when it’s done. Until then, this one from a year or more ago, from when the current death squads were being first written about officially, will have to do:

    The Salvador Option

    It is the highest
    (he wrote)
    It is the highest form of religion
    to substitute
    the blank slate, the stainless plastic
    for one’s own dirty scrawl
    of deeds, thoughts, original sin
    all one need say is “I believe”

    As the rifles are handed out
    (“I believe!”)
    and the black masks, the knives
    (“I believe! I believe!”)
    the dog-eared manuals
    retranslated from Spanish
    the new yellow ribbon magnets
    that read “Support our death squads”
    it is necessary, we say,
    it must happen

    We must try again and again
    They must know fear
    Nail up examples until we succeed

    Until we get it right

    we have washed our hands
    we are clean
    we have substituted
    the blank slate
    we are blameless
    we believe

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