The Other Annunciation

                  In lieu of a new-new poem today, and in the spirit of the season, 
I'm sharing a poem I wrote in 1997, which was published in the December
issue of Poetry Magazine that year. May we look to gentler times.


                  "The mystery kept secret for endless
                  ages is now made clear."


The way it came to you
was through the story of
the carpenter, working one
day in shade to plane
the wood—

Both hands, blistered and
attentive to disturbances, finger
the knobs and raised welts of surfaces,
rubbing where the heart is the color of raw
wheat or honey

                             The shavings fall
away like wings among the small
pebbles near his feet, curled seraphs'
ears near the ground, listening
for the footfall of his

What of the woman who is already
taking her place at his side, at night
laying the tools in the basket, whose
hands have kneaded the dough
and wrapped the warm body
of bread in napkins, leaving
the outline of her fingers
in its sides

         After all it is early enough, still
possible to turn the other way,
name it an act of will—

To shut the window and remain like this
inhaling only the musk of cedar and sandalwood
among the cunning drawers and cabinets,
the hasps and boards that do not need
to sing when they are joined

What of the course he might not
have chosen but is given the chance
to repudiate or consider, the salutations
of light falling in a certain way
so as to make objects compelling,
to render in relief the outlines
of chisels, sawteeth, nails,

A seam on the burnished wood:
now barely noticeable, unsolicited
memento, remnant of a casual
encounter with lightning

except for the slight
alteration in design, the way
coming life is hardly yet breath,
a flutter beneath the ribs, but
already married to the coming
days of this life.


A woman sets a table
and cries out in surprise

On the barren
horizon there are no figures yet
but something rises to her tongue—
wintermelons, red rice, freshwater
fish, green mangoes, extravagant

The empty doorframe fills with
space that throbs, a rectangle of light
spilling on the stone patio

Hand midway between her heart
and her belly, she is wondering
whose is the extra place

The blue plate shimmers on white
linen, the figures etched on china
bow decorously, each to the other—

a man and a woman, behind them
a three-tiered pagoda, a willow
tree, the grandmother at the upstairs
window, carefully turning on
the night-light

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