The Annunciation

Sunday, 23 January 2011


The Virgin

It is odd, what the heart recalls. I remember the shade of the light:
late sun, like the skin of an apple, russet and gold.
I remember the backs of my hands - the splay of their bones
as fragile and slim as a bird’s. The hands of a girl.
I was stitching a cloth for a man who was rich as a king –
a beautiful thing, to hang on his chamber wall.
I remember its slippery weight, its elegant sprawl,
how it spilled from my lap and pooled like ink on the floor.
I remember my needle, holding the thread in thrall.
I stitched a wild man, dancing alone on a cliff:
copper wire for his hair, a twist of bright steel for each limb.
I used tiny, split pearls for the wealth of a woman’s soft tears.
I remember each dimpled curve, pierced by the needle’s swift sting.
I picked out a fleet of white boats, hulls slender as flames;
the slashed black silk of the sea, the foaming lace of the waves.
I worked in a trance, ‘til the day was almost done.
I was stitching a hill, stained by a ghastly, sun -
the flick of a serpent’s tongue - the snickering grin of a skull;
weaving the tale of my cloth ‘til the tongue of my needle was blunt.
I stitched a night in December, adazzle with frost.
The breath of a bull, like gauze on the smoke-blue sky.
A mother’s astonished lips, at the cheek of her sleeping child.
I used thick silk for the sun on the roof of my home,
the shallow lap of a girl, overflowing with tumbling gold.
I remember night brimmed in the shadows , threatening to spill.
The floorboards hummed.
The darkening sky suddenly throbbed with the beating of wings.
I pulled the thread tight and split it between my teeth.
I put the needle aside. I let the cloth slip from my knee.

Holly Green