Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s “Annunciation”
Plein-aire painters by the lake in Belmar
look curiously at their canvases,
the bright blue sky, the pine-dark evergreens,
the yellow aspen leaves as they wind-fall
down from white boughs to the em-pathed earth
that curves around to the muddy shoreline
and the water-birds—ducks, geese, cormorants,
seagulls, egrets, Great Blue Herons—all hunting
for a way back into the autumn sky.
Watching them with their paint-pots and pastels,
pencil-sketchings, watercolors and oils,
I am reminded of a red-headed
girl, Christina, sitting on a white sheet,
shrinking from the Angel’s outstretched lily,
as if it were fruit from Goblin-Market,
she longing for the Convent Threshold
but unable to resist the Painter—
the brushstrokes of power, the angle of light.
How dazzling it would be if she stood up,
walked out of her frightened room toward the bells
ringing out the tones and tunes for vespers
in the old Abbey of Saint Monica
where the memory of Nature stretches
her roots down deep into the fertile loam
and finds a wellspring hidden in the earth
like a present promise, a dream of life
awakening to her heavenly will.
It is not impossible that Christina
could cross the Channel to Italy,
passing over reformation to her
Renaissance, in a time-travel romance
that brought her breathless to love’s own workshop,
to Leonardo, astonished, who asked
her to sit before an open book, with one
hand on the page, the other upraised
before a flower-less angel blessing her
to receive new life in the womb of her heart.
O, the pregnancy of Christina’s heart!
Like Swedish prayers sung in Saint Birgitta,
like the leaping in Saint Elizabeth,
how the new life tumbles and turns,
the First Mover moving in a cartwheel,
in choreographed liturgy for
still-life models transformed into dancers,
mothering forth the marriage of heaven
and earth: the epiphany of joy.
Christina goes walking in a secret
garden, her left breast round with the promise
of birth, and her hymn of praise brings about
the first pang of labor, pictured in triptych
—lost from ancient times, but pursued in recall—
here is Eva under the Tree, her hand
on temptation’s fruit, not knowing her sin,
and then Maria, birthing in a barn,
last, Christina, holding Love in her arms.
Love! I carry your artwork in my soul—
always I know you are there, inviting
me, free and uncoerced, to surrender
to what you have painted bright in the world,
shining in the light on the golden leaves,
the lake beyond the canvases where painters
are painting from one perspective what you
have painted all around in three dimensions—
touching my body with hope’s open wings.
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation”