The Annunciatory Angel (detail of Fra Angelico’s The Annunciation)
The androgynous visitor is dressed
in a rosy fabric thick as pigment, the tunic
blown back by turbulence to expose its lining,
a blue crescent under the right arm. Angels
are said to be genderless, so there’s a certain
enigma. A wing, the clue to otherness,
arcs in golden space. We are
at several removes from the reality, reading
between the lines, speculation on Angelico’s
speculation. How does an angel look? We are not
Daniel or Zechariah; we have not been shown.
This rendering suggests not celestial power and radiance
but a weight of apprehension; what must be announced
will not be entirely easy news.
Wind is part of the picture, gusts
whipping the robes and body along a stretch
of baroque carpet. Gabriel seems to be
advancing up an incline, laboring with
the imperative of message, hair flattened against scalp,
features tense, hands folded tight to the chest,
agitation or awe–it is hard to tell. We can’t see
the heart hammering in the unearthly body,
but the announcement, the cracking open of a space
that encircles earth and heaven, must weigh
like a gold boulder in the belly.
How might it feel (if an archangel has feelings) to bear
this news? Perhaps as confounded as the girl, there
in the corner? We worry that she might be faint.
Weep. Turn away, perplexed and fearful
about opening herself. Refuse to let the wind
fill her, to buffet its nine-month seed into her earth.
She is so small and intact. Turmoil will wrench her.
She might say no.