On Botticelli’s Annunciation

I have met them in the Uffizi
the angel hunched on bended knee—
his thigh thick beneath his satin robe—
the virgin’s urgent contrapposto
her sudden arm extended long
beyond the border of her cape
halting his rehearsed song
as if his theme weren’t love but rape.

Her face impossibly serene
does not betray her body’s fear.
His deathless eyes have never seen
a mortal woman quite so near.
The space between their outstretched hands
salvation in a single glance.


This soot-dark smear
across the brow, between the eyes,
will lead you, if the way be clear,
through all the endless winter of our year,
toward an elemental table, the tears
and savage hubbub of that agonizing garden,
the treacherous courtyard, hilltop, nails and spear,
the cry, the dark descending fear,
and then another garden with a cave
and such an austere emptiness
will fill the rest of history
with clear resounding alleluias.


Of all wild things the sparrow
unkempt body, claws
like little commas those
ridiculously tiny bones
that brash bird-chirp

is most to be noted
for industrious foraging
effortless flitting
morning to nightfall
bush to bush.

Sparrows are sold
two for a penny in the temple
we are told how easily
and frequently they fall
though never unseen.

Of all qualities to fear
the endearing fearlessness
of a dun-feathered sassy sparrow
is, when you think of it, most

The light carrier

He has dropped
What he was holding
Slipped, stripped
His splendor from his grasp

Made splendid,
Now splintered, scattered
The day star shattered

Broken upon the earth
His twisted, tattered wings
Smoldering, shredded
Tangled about him

Blackened and wretched
Burnt up and burnt out
His beauty into ashes
His light into darkness

Who has fallen further?


When I wake in the night and think
of what I might have said in class that day,
I wonder why my life consists

of inarticulate occasions.
No timely word, only belated ones.
Every hour a first draft, and then another.

It makes me want to announce, “Listen!
Listen to what I do not say. Listen
to what it is you cannot say yourselves.”

There are sighs and groans,
           just sighs and groans.
Interpret them, dear ones, as you may.