"Bad Annunciation"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
Sept. 4 2007 7:49 AM

"Bad Annunciation"

—ca. 1500, Jean de Flanes

Click here   to listen to Joanie Mackowski read this poem.


She's heard it too often before, waited in too many
rooms and dresses for each moon-

faced angel, each with a different approach.
This is the worst. The walls a botch

of brick, no window, not a thread
of drapery—the beams so low if Mary stood

she'd knock her head. Yet an inch
from her head hangs the dove, outstretched

in a pink and blue bubble: it will land in her hair.
But Mary doesn't care. She stares far

away, toward my knees and the rick-
rack edge of the rug in the gallery. She doesn't look

at the book, open in her lap. Not the usual book: it's a picture-
book, a museum catalog maybe, Four

Centuries of Annunciations—anyway, it's open
to a dime-sized, dim, and inverted replica of this same

painting here. How clever: a mirror in her lap,
like the pinprick infinite hope just plopped

in her womb. The angel enters stage left,
as usual, but he brought no flower, just

a spear. Will he kneel? His knees
haven't yet touched the floor. Perhaps he flies

with them bent, to save time. And he's more bivalve
than angel, his wings too rigid and blue, yet to evolve.

Joanie Mackowski is the author of View From a Temporary Window and The Zoo. She teaches at Cornell University.