Charles Munoz

The Bull and the Angel

So there they are, the bull and the Messenger of the Lord,
waiting underneath the stands listening to the trumpets
blaring out the pasodoble, and the bull prances a little,
thinking the music's for him.

You know what happens next: the gate opens, brash sunlight
glares in, and our bull rushes into the arena, head high, feet twinkling.
Well, the picadors do their thing, the banderilleros do their thing,
and the matador does his thing. The bull, blood smooth and flat
on his flanks, blood dripping in clots from his knees, flops over and dies.
Two old mules plod out and drag him off while the crowd shouts
and the sun burns down into the glittering arena.

Then, in the private darkness under the stands,
the Angel of the Lord chafes the bull's cheeks
and breathes deeply into his mouth and says, "Get up now,
Paco," or Carlos, or Monstro--whatever the bull's name is--
"Get up now. They're cheering for you,"
and the bull hears the crowd and the music.

So when they're ready for the next bullfight, the gate opens,
the sun lights up the darkness under the stands, and the same bull
swaggers out, horns high in the sunlight.
Everybody does his thing. The second matador
salutes the bull, gets the bull's head down,
and runs the sword into his bullish heart
through that perfect spot high between his shoulders
while the vast bullring of aficionados cheers
and flings roses and wineskins into the arena
as the mules drag the dead bull into darkness.

Underneath the stands
the Angel wipes off the blood, pets the bull's forehead, combs his hair,
feeds him a bucket of marigolds floating in champagne,
and says, "Get back in there. It's you they want.
Just listen to that applause."

So now the trumpets flash out again.
Gate opens again. Sun glares in again.
And out he rushes again, a little tired maybe,
but leaping in the sunlight, triumphant, bellowing, tossing his horns.
He smashes the picadors' horses and pushes hard
against the spears. He chases the banderilleros until they hurtle
gasping, across the barrier, into safety.
And although his head is down,
and although gaudy sticks clatter and flop from his shoulder
and sweat draws a map of the world on his hide,
he grins drool at the strutting matador who shoves
his spangled pelvis toward the horns
and hides his sword behind his cape.
The crowd cries out "Ole!" and the bull
thinks they're calling his name,
praising his name,
glorifying his name,
as he stands before the matador with weary mastery of horn and hoof.

But this time the torero is young, or frightened, or ungraceful,
and the sword bangs bone, pops out, tries again, tries again,
goes slithering sideways into the bull's lung,
and blood gargles from the bull's mouth, foaming
onto the sand as he totters and cries out,
then lurches over onto his left side, kicking, while dust
roars up from his hide
and all of us in that crowd
hiss, boo, whistle, fling out cushions.

In the cool shade underneath the stands, the Angel of the Lord
whispers to the next bull,
caresses his neck, brushes and combs his forehead,
kisses the ticklish spot between his shoulders,
while the old mules trudge through the blazing gate
to pull our dead bull back into darkness.

Copyright 1995, Charles Munoz

Charles Munoz lives in Doylestown, PA. His poems have appeared in a number of journals,
including The Beloit Poetry Journal, Cream City, and Literary Review, and his novel,
Stowaway, was published by Random House. He's poetry editor of The Jewish Spectator.
"The Bull and the Angel" was first published in The Beloit Poetry Journal, Fall, 1995, and
has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He can be reached at

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