Uncertainty (After Luci Shaw’s “The Annunciatory Angel”)

As we begin the season of Advent, I thought it would be fitting to begin with some Advent-themed poems. The first is based on Luci Shaw’s “The Annunciatory Angel”, which itself is a response to Fra Angelico’s painting “The Annunciation”. Though inspired by Shaw’s poem, I have gone back to the original painting and written my own response to it. I hope that it can help you also to focus on the amazing Christmas story this Advent.

annunciation

Uncertainty (After “The Annunciatory Angel”)

Bent forwards, finger to lips as though
A secret is about to be told,
Crested with gold, saurian wings, more
Bone-like than feathered, halo at the side,
Cone-of-silence-like, to keep the secret:
The angel whispers,

And Mary waits, Medieval fringe her veil,
Hands clasped to chest – does she cradle herself
Or cover her breasts? Blue modesty drapes itself
Around her waist. Wooden floorboards must feel
The shake, the suppressed tremble
As the Angel’s pursed lips disclose a truth
Shocking to the ears, to the senses, to logic,
Then as much as now.

And, wandering beneath the stars,
At stage right, three figures, one haloed, the others not,
Descending a hill towards – something? Towards what?
Fra Angelico does not show,
The only light a glow about
The Angel’s feet and face, and Mary,
Glowing in uncertainty, the prospect
Of scared obedience.

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