Phoebe Traquair's Angels
PT was an artist working in tapestry, embroidery, jewellery, enamelling but also in
large-scale frescoes in notably a catholic apostolic church, a children's hospital chapel and a music
school attached to a cathedral. She was Irish, married to a Scottish scientist and aligned with the arts
and crafts movement who believed that art should enhance the daily lives of the general public.
This red-winged angel of rapture
receiver of souls after
torture, the kind that life inflicts
stitch by embroidered stitch
The Progress of the Soul.
Is this red-winged angel
promoted from the ranks
who swell the Song School choirs
in Benedicite omnia opera?
or delegated from those who cradle
souls of dead children from
their hospital chapel?
or one of the seraphim
frescoed in serried praise
in the Apostolic church?
Pinions. Spilled blood. Tenderness.
Restoration. Comfort-ye, against
all odds, against indifference:
Take courage! Be not afraid!
Yet the red of these fluted wings
and swan-like in grandeur.
Tapestries of the soul; improvisations
of Spirit, plucking the strings
stitched on linen in spiralling silks,
gold, silver, satin stitch,
Who receives today's dead children
blasted by bombs dropped 'collaterally'
or left for them in markets and buses
or infiltrating their schools?
What wings could sustain or soothe,
What colour depict? What linens?
What shrouds for wrapping the remnants?
And the bodies of children who slowly die
of infestation, infection, starvation, neglect ?
stretch your hands out gently for these
and fold your violent wings:
Who receives the bombers crimsoned
with rage and despair
O angel of rupture.
Triptych. Tessa Ransford