Considering Mary’s choice

Poets and artists help us think  about all the questions around Mary, and and the stories about how she became pregnant. Lots of people have questions about this–did it happen, if so why, what is important about Mary being a virgin? Why did an angel announce it? Did Mary have choices in the matter?  This poem addresses some of these things, written as a study of Botticelli’s Cestello Annunciation. He sees in this painting a pause–space for Mary to consider, before saying yes. It relates to the poem of Levertov’s that I posted yesterday, where she says “choice, integral to humanness.”

The Cestello  Annunciation –Andrew Hudgins

The angel has already said, Be not afraid.
He’s said, The power of the Most High
will darken you. Her eyes are downcast and half closed. And there’s a long pause -a pause here of forever-
as the angel crowds her. She backs away,
her left side pressed against the picture frame.

He kneels. He’s come in all unearthly innocence
to tell her of glory -not knowing, not remembering
how terrible it is. And Botticelli
gives her eternity to turn, look out the doorway, where
on a far hill floats a castle, and halfway across
the river toward it juts a bridge, not completed-
and neither is the touch, angel to virgin, both her hands held up, both elegant, one raised
as if to say stop, while the other hand, the right one,
reaches toward his; and, as it does, it parts her blue robe
and reveals the concealed red of her inner garment
to the red tiles of the floor and the red folds
of the angel’s robe. But her whole body pulls away.
Only her head, already haloed, bows,
acquiescing. And though she will, she’s not yet said,
Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord,
as Botticelli, in his great pity,
lets her refuse, accept, refuse, and think again.

American Rendering: New and Selected Poems. Andrew Hudgins, Houghton, Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2010.