Fra Angelico’s Adoration,
San Marco, Florence


    Angelico has juxtaposed his bloody
Son of Man to the infant— 
      the blood spills his ropy veined
        inner-arms where the tender flesh is pale
      and the mica-flecked wall glitters
like the surface of the moon.

    In this season and region the olive trees
are heavy with dark fruit; all one afternoon
    I gathered them with my hands
        to be crushed. You have to grasp
    the bitter flesh-pits and drop them in a net.
Beyond the near-winter fields,

    only the hour-bells carry over the gulf
from the high city to shadowed valley.
    The monk who woke and slept
        and filled his eyes with this bright
    painting all his days, did he see the end
in the beginning? An arc, an arrow, a shape in nature?

    Did its heart-tip burn the mark
like a black candle in dull noon?
    My sight searches and searches,
        as though to go to Him.
So many buried lamps. What shall I
take for a witness? Angelico’s blue?

    Fruit breaking loose from a tree?
The guard’s heavy footfall on the stone floor?
    Or the words he spoke
        in a tongue I could not understand,
    when I broke into song to sound the cell,
to hear the empty chamber answer.

Christine Perrin

From Bright Mirror, with permission from the author