Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Looking for Light

Two shopping days till Christmas
and I set aside my list for the quiet
gallery: a little Fra Angelico nativity
that I have always loved.
I want to imagine him, palette in hand,
brush dripping with Byzantine blue sky
the delicate pink of angel wings,
I want to see stars, light, hay, flesh itself
living, breathing—everything made
of his great faith.

But all I see is that Mary and Joseph
are not looking at each other,
or at the poor, naked child
laid on the hard ground.

There’s only half an angel on the mountain,
the cow is a yellow lump,
the mouth of the cave papier mache,
the sheltering lean-to looks like a carport.

Just a predella, never meant
for such scrutiny, I know—
still, I had counted on its comfort,
hoped it might transport me
to Italy, where I was happy,
to the museum at San Marco—
room after room of Beato Anglelico
and the monks’ quarters above,
each tiny cell frescoed by the Master
its own world, each door opening
onto a wide, whitewashed corridor
drenched in light, guarded by angels.


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