There is an architecture to this room
the Virgin’s in – its grey walls and red floor
are laid out, not as blueprints are, but in
perspective. Through the open door, a scene
of land- and cityscape. There is a ship
in what must be an estuary, and
a single tree beyond the patterned garden.
The Virgin sees the angel Gabriel,
in pink and gold and gauze. His folded wings
are grey and green. In his left hand, a lily.
His right performs a blessing. As he kneels,
the Virgin makes a modest sign to him.
She has a holy pallor, as the Spring
or Venus of this painter don’t; she is
secure in blue and red or fuchsia,
and a gold band trims her blue robe. Around
her feet, her gown shades to a pink that’s quite
identical to Gabriel’s. Could she
not stay in red and blue? Or had the painter
grown weary of those colours? Gabriel
delights the eye. And why should angels not?
There is a joy to this art that you might
look for in vain before it. It is still,
and Mary’s flesh has a metallic sheen –
and yet, its pink and blue and red and gold
trace a new world. As if a rusty door
swung open onto Venus, we alight
where sunshine plays and hope is not a poor
ersatz for living – where each might-have-been
comes true, and all the world does what they will.
We dream. We do whatever fits the bill.
John Claiborne Isbell
Since 2016, various MSS of John’s have placed as finalist or semifinalist for The Washington Prize (three times), The Brittingham & Felix Pollak Prizes (twice), the Elixir Press 19th Annual Poetry Award, The Gival Press Poetry Award, the 2020 Able Muse Book Award (twice) and the 2020 and 2021 Richard Snyder Publication Prizes. John published his first book of poetry, Allegro, in 2018, and has published in Poetry Durham, threecandles.org, the Jewish Post & Opinion, Snakeskin, The HyperTexts, and The Ekphrastic Review. He has published books with Oxford and with Cambridge University Press and appeared in Who’s Who in the World. He also once represented France in the European Ultimate Frisbee Championships. He retired this summer from The University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley, where he taught French and German and coached men’s and women’s ultimate. His wife continues to teach languages there.
The Ekphrastic Review
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