Gabriel’s Annunciation

For a moment

I hesitated

on the threshold.

For the space

of a breath

I paused,

unwilling to disturb

her last ordinary moment,

knowing that the next step

would cleave her life:

that this day

would slice her story

in two,

dividing all the days before

from all the ones

to come.

The artists would later

depict the scene:

Mary dazzled

by the archangel,

her head bowed

in humble assent,

awed by the messenger

who condescended

to leave paradise

to bestow such an honor

upon a woman, and mortal.

Yet I tell you

it was I who was dazzled,

I who found myself agape

when I came upon her—

reading, at the loom, in the kitchen,

I cannot now recall;

only that the woman before me—

blessed and full of grace

long before I called her so—

shimmered with how completely

she inhabited herself,

inhabited the space around her,

inhabited the moment

that hung between us.

I wanted to save her

from what I had been sent

to say.

Yet when the time came,

when I had stammered

the invitation

(history would not record

the sweat on my brow,

the pounding of my heart;

would not note

that I said

Do not be afraid

to myself as much as

to her)

it was she

who saved me—

her first deliverance—

her Let it be

not just declaration

to the Divine

but a word of solace,

of soothing,

of benediction

for the angel

in the doorway

who would hesitate

one last time—

just for the space

of a breath

torn from his chest—

before wrenching himself away

from her radiant consent,

her beautiful and

awful yes.

—Jan Richardson