The Incident

A poem by Ben Newman, reflecting on some of the intense spiritual experiences he had during his struggle with mental illness.

An alchemist one day discovered an urge
To summon an angel, and kiss her, and merge
Divinity draws us, we long for the sky
And we don’t always know what we’re seeking, or why

He set up a lab, and he gathered a team
He gave it his all in pursuit of his dream
He acquired the notebooks of those who’d succeeded
But they sat on his bookshelf, unread… and unheeded

The alchemist didn’t know what he was doing
Didn’t realize the power of what he was brewing
Didn’t take the precautions — not meaning to shirk —
But the work drove the madness, and the madness the work

The field was established, the vessels were filled
And gradually energy started to build
The portal was small, but it slowly took form
And the air in the lab grew concerningly warm

In rare, fleeting moments the angel was seen
But always a pane of glass stood in between
And he could have stopped there — the next stage would be rough
But to see and not touch her was never enough

At last he was ready, at least so he thought
But he knew he was doing it, ready or not
He said to his team: This is it, wish me luck!
Stepped into the field, flipped the switch — lightning struck

The field flared and flickered, the vessels all cracked
The terrified team were all taken aback
After all the hard work, after all their devotion
The portal collapsing… the shock… the explosion…

Sharp shards and hot god-stuff went all over the lab
The alchemist was scalded, his assistant was stabbed
The whole team ran, screaming — no one looked back again —
And they taped up the door: theohazard, type ten

The lab was in ruins, to clean up took a year
But when it was done, and the rubble was cleared
And the shards were all sorted, and disposed of with care
The field was still up, and the angel was there

Her robes were in tatters, her wings were unwound
The fall had been brutal, the portal unsound
After all of the damage, to merge was too much
But at least she was there — they could speak, they could touch

In time she recovered, her presence was healing
Her countenance kind, her expression revealing
She spoke of the dangerous game he had played
And he swore he would learn, and she smiled, and she stayed

Now, the alchemist could have been broken by guilt
But he worked through his fears, and the lab was rebuilt
And the field was restarted, though not quite as strong
And it still hums away, generating new songs

If you summon an angel, be wise and beware
Take every precaution, take time to prepare
Renew your commitment, check all your equipment
And take it from me, ‘cause I know — I was there