“At the Convent of San Marco, Looking at Fra Angelico’s Annunciation (or If Your Mother’s Name Is Also Mary)”
Into the fresco’s sunlit room, the word
falls, a stone that she can’t move. She knows
the tomb is sealed and sees the end illuminated.
Her miracle takes seconds. Shocked
to find the day resumed, she stumbles with the news—
she will live. I’m studying
the light, the faint cracks in the paint
the mother, handmaid, wife:
the moment she is nailed to it.
My mother was born in broad day,
roof of her mouth un-fused and christened, Mary.
Father O’Grady held the babe, urged surgery:
Without the ability to properly confess her sins,
the mouth of Hell awaits her. I wait
for Mary to speak in the convent’s cell,
walls scrubbed white—the Angel’s perfect face
already turning away—wondering if a soul hangs
on what can be spoken clearly. My mother was one
of many: Mary Therese, Mary Margaret,
Mary Benedicta, Mary Genevieve, Mary
of the cleft palate and the ether mask,
who must be careful not to whistle when she speaks,
Mary, painted as though it happened right
where I stand, under a monk’s peaked doorway,
that she bent half over her book and spoke.
I’ll tell you this, in the worst minute
of my life, I didn’t recognize my feet or hands,
too bright, too hard to breathe, but I could hear
a voice instructing me: Put on your shoes.
Put on your shoes and stand.
Kirun Kapur is the winner of the Arts & Letters Rumi Prize in Poetry and the Antivenom Poetry Award for her first book, Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist (Elixir Press, 2015). Her work has appeared in AGNI, Poetry International, FIELD, The Christian Science Monitor and many other journals. She has taught creative writing at Boston University and has been awarded fellowships from The Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Vermont Studio Center and MacDowell Colony. She is the founder and director of the North Shore arts program The Tannery Series and serves as Poetry Editor at The Drum Literary Magazine. She was recently named an “Asian-American poet to watch” by NBC news. Kapur grew up in Honolulu and now lives north of Boston.
Jane Huffman is a current MFA candidate in Poetry at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a staff eDior for Sundress Publications. Her poetry is featured or forthcoming in The Adroit Journal, Moon City Review, Radar Poetry, PHANTOM, Word Riot, The This Magazine, RHINO Poetry, and elsewhere in print and online. She lives in Iowa City, where she teaches literature in the University of Iowa English Department and serves on the poetry staff of The Iowa Review.