March 25, 2014

Two Annunciations

Two modern Annunciations for you, for today's Feast of the Annunciation:


This painting by Raphael Soyer was one of the only grabbers at a new exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum  and grab me, it did. It is a large piece; hung on the dingy grey walls of the exhibit hall, it seemed lifelike in scale and proportion. Two ladies going about their business, getting washed, getting dressed, but with very different internal dispositions. One has a look of focused concentration (I'll wear my green dress, and the white hat. Have to remember to pick up stamps on my way to work. Are my brown shoes still at the cobblers?)  the other: an openness, an expectancy, a peace (Let it be done unto me according to your word).

I like thinking of Mary in these situations, because it reminds me that I need to live like Mary in the rush of our days: that is, in constant readiness to do the will of God. Even to listen for it. Especially in the rush of my current work, where there is little to know me except by my manner: my willingness to work, my cheer, my attention to detail. These could become burdens — the cares of the world — or they could be come joys, thanks to an open disposition to listen for the will of God, and live it.

— — 

The second "Annunciation" is actually a poem, from a collection of poems by Mary Szybist, called Incarnadine. Incarnadine, which won the 2013 National Book Award for Poetry, is loosely based around the Annunciation and those moments where the natural world in unsettled by the spiritual (as well as the varying responses to that unsettling. (My favorite of the poems was "Here, There are Blueberries" which you can read here.)

ANNUNCIATION OVERHEARD FROM THE KITCHEN
by Mary Szybist

I could hear them from the kitchen, speaking as if
something important had happened.

I was washing the pears in cool water, cutting
the bruises from them.
From my place at the sink, I could hear

a jet buzz hazily overhead, a vacuum
start up next door, the click,
click between shots.

“Mary, step back from the camera.”

There was a softness to his voice
but no fondness, no hurry in it.

There were faint sounds
like walnuts being dropped by crows onto the street,
almost a brush
of windchime from the porch—

Windows around me everywhere half-open—

My skin alive with the pitch.

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