Saturday, December 23, 2006

An Advent Poem (Luci Shaw)

(This is her latest and a fine poem for our fourth week of Advent.)





















The androgynous visitor is dressed
in a rosy fabric thick as pigment, the tunic
blown back by turbulence to expose its lining,
a blue crescent under the right arm. Angels
are said to be genderless, so there’s a
certain enigma here. A wing, the clue to otherness,
arcs in golden space. We are

at several removes from the reality, reading
between the lines, speculating on Angelico’s
speculation. How does an angel look? We are not
Daniel or Zechariah; we have not been shown.
This rendering suggests not celestial power but
a weight of apprehension; what must be announced
will not be entirely easy news.

Wind is part of the picture, gusts
whipping the robes and body along a stretch
of patterned carpet. Gabriel seems to be
advancing up an incline, laboring with
the imperative of message, hair flattened against scalp,
features tense, hands folded tight to the chest.
Agitation or awe—it is hard to tell. We can’t see
the heart hammering in the unearthly body,
but the announcement, the cracking open of a space
within the vastness containing earth and heaven,
must weigh like a gold boulder in the belly.

How might it feel (if an archangel has feelings) to bear
this news? Perhaps as confounded as the girl, there
in the corner? We worry that she might faint.
Weep. Turn away, perplexed and fearful
about opening herself. Refuse to let the wind
fill her, to buffet its nine-month seed into her earth.
She is so small and intact. Turmoil will wrench her.

Might she say no?

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