Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Archangels are Formidable

This morning I picked up a Christmas present.  The nuns had left Sister Miriam Pollard's book of poetry out for the taking, as gifts.  I've been enjoying reading it.

The first one I read was San Marco.  I chose that because I have a son named Mark.  The title, however, is not about St. Mark, the person, but the Dominican friary, San Marco, in Florence, Italy.  The artist, Fra Angelico resided there and painted murals on the wall.  Nowadays, however, I think the priory with the paintings is a little museum.  The friars have moved on.

The imagery in the poem made me smile and even left me with an audible chuckle.  Sister Miriam is quite adept in her descriptive verse.  I lived the experience through Sister's verse.  She is writing about this painting of the angel Gabriel announcing that she has been chosen to be the Mother of God.

San Marco by Sister Miriam Pollard, ocso

Customarily,
the friar studies at his table.
He also prays there.

His cell is small.
The other room, the painted room,
is not real.

He is accustomed to it:
The angel, looking like a feathered rainbow,
bows to a woman still as glass.
How gracefully she has returned the bow,
bending her body to the exigencies
of a redemptive invitation.

There, in the structured courtliness of Luke,
a pastel narrative
invites of the cell's inhabitant
a consonant response.

The friar isn't sure.
He asks himself
what is the question here?
Who is the answer?

He reads his book,
uncomfortable with Nazareth at his elbow.

 But Nazareth, after all,
is eaten every night by darkness.

He isn't sure what happens then.  Some nights--
well, through some nights he sleeps.
That is all,
all one would expect of night.

But sometimes, he thinks,
darkness has a way of disengaging from his wall
that bright-winged threat.

And as they slowly circle one another--
he and this other--in a formless solitude,
he feels his own throat harrowed
by indeterminate and soundless cries.

He leaps to wrestle then with--
with what, he does not know.

Dawn is not quite a resolution.
Blessings are often obscure.
Light again repaints
a softly garmented angelic presence on the wall.

The friar is not fooled.
He spits a feather from his mouth,
sloughs off a sweaty tunic, takes a dry one,
and limps a little to the door.


1 comment:

Joann Nelander said...

I love, "He spits a feather from his mouth."
His battles are real enough as are ours.
May all your angels be good ones.