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Marly Youmans


The Annunciation Carved in a Medieval Prayer-Nut

So small you want to cup it in your hand,
And packed with tiny sculptures of the lives
Of Mary and her son—it would have hung
Upon a fine-worked sash or rosary,
But now, unlatched for passing eyes to see,
Must seldom be the spur for any prayer.
Under the glass of a museum case,
Gabriel lifts the lily scepter high
In symbol of the Father, while the bird
Begins its overshadowing above,
Beside the son-reminding disk of sun.
The spirit of their words is all that joins
These two, archangel and the seated girl—
The greeting and response unscroll and kiss,
A pair of banners floating on the air.
The complicated silken draperies
Of dress, the rivered ripples of her hair …
How often did a Flanders eye long dust
Get lost in the sweet evidence of world,
The Virgin with medieval bed and book,
That formed an inner lid to hide this scene:
Her boy, all formal education done,
Career long chosen and his rise secure,
The whole world crammed into his boxwood sphere,
His brow encircled by a braided crown,
Stumbles—

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