By Alan Altany


The Montréal Review, July 2024


Portrait of Beatrice Portinari - by Gustav Klimt


Transitory beauty aches
the magnitudes of soul
with stunning intensities
of perpetual longings
for a vision without end,
a gracious elegance                
as simple as eternity
and angelic dancing.
The awful pain of beauty
is the crucible of its call,
the irony of its mortal lure
towards sheer perfection
hidden in beauty’s passage
into exquisite emptiness
where mysteries converge
in an ecstatic darkness.
The ache of divine beauty
buried in the melancholy
of all fading harmonies
until a rising culmination.


                                                                                 Rothko, 1956

Luminous, mythic light,
iconic window onto
emotional heavens,
viewers weeping
in color-risen epiphanies,
a contemplative yellow
cloud of unknowing,
a sacred poem
disguised as paint
on a huge canvas,
antidote to vulgarity
& fallacious speeding
through degrees
of separation,
abstract, earthy &
staring at ancient,
floating rectangles,
startled to see vague
shadows of divinity.

Musical Angels (c. 1475-97, Detail) by Francesco Botticini


Music sounds off
across all rhythms
of intensified time,
miraculous moments
in unique passages
of 7th heaven proportions,
appearing & disappearing
like a swift & silent
symphony of fireflies
on a warm June night.
Music as lived marriage
between here & eternity,
transforming worlds
instantaneously, totally,
as surprising as love
unrestricted by fear,
visitations of the divine
disguised as good
vibrations in ordinary
moments of ecstasy.

Musical Angels (c. 1475-97) by Francesco Botticini


“Let this be my epitaph: 
                            ‘The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.’”
                                                                                                 _ Kurt Vonnegut

Music is the sound of mysticism
playfully uniting heaven to earth
like descending banyan tree roots
to the aerial sounds of the wind
winding around the ecstatic trunks;
from Appalachian mountain blues
to monastic Gregorian chanting
& Mozart & the Doobie Brothers,
eternity pervades each moment
with audibly presented epiphanies
blooming with imaginative faith
& a suffered loving for all life.
Music as sacrament of the soul,
dawning of beauty’s dark night,
sound of God’s rhythmic silence,
the freedom to remember hope
among ruins of relative chaos,    
oceanic immersion in the desert
where angels & devils sing songs
together hovering around a fire
blazing with perfect godly irony.

Alan Altany is a poet and college professor of religious studies and theology. His book of Christian poetry, A Beautiful Absurdity, was published in 2022. You can learn more about Alan at




The Montréal Review © All rights reserved. ISSN 1920-2911