Books and Angels

I remember at age 8 or 9, lying in bed and breathing deeply and slowly and without sound, trying to be as still as possible, arms crossed over my chest as I’d seen dead people do in movies and then worrying that I was so convincing, I might actually die in the night. Often I was the last one awake. The house quiet but for muffled snores, the 1920s oil-fueled radiators clunking and hissing, or if in summer, the gentle rattle of the attic fan, its square cut-out in the hall ceiling propped open with a shoe. There was a night bird once singing. I wrote poetry. Of course I read with the flashlight under the covers. I thought and obsessed. I did not know then about addictive or obsessive personalities, just that I had to be vigilant about what I put in my head because once in, it would never leave me alone. I was so afraid of night and so curious about it.

With sleep came big theatrical dreams populated by strangers or else nightmares. My mother, in response to yet another complaint about the bad dreams and trouble or resistance to falling asleep, told me I needed an angel. So I began to imagine an army of them, or maybe better termed a detachment, standing shoulder to shoulder around my bed, facing away. They were all stiff and straight and kind of gray with high wings and pikes in their hands just like the statue of St. Michael that presided over the entrance to our church on Kelly Street. Inside that barrier, nothing could get me, no one. I still fell asleep reading as another safeguard against too much free thinking and I still do. And so books and angels became obsessions themselves.


Erin lives in a yellow house with her husband, two children and a very brown dog. She loves taking that dog on her last walk of the day, just before bedtime, when she can be alone outside in the night.

Erin takes classes with Valley.

Erin LevensComment