The 2River View 22.1 (Fall 2017)

Mary Crow

Theory of the Angelic Figure

Caravaggio’s “Rest on the Flight to Egypt”

Oh, my darling angel, were you there then,
when Mary sat cross-legged, exhausted,
cradling her baby, cheek resting against his head,
your glance a pillar of light against dark clouds
that hover over the landscape as you perform,
“How Beautiful and Decorous”, whose notes fill
the air while snapped strings coil from a peg
of your violin, a curl of tousled hair freed
on your forehead, your wings copied from a pigeon’s.

You turn your back on us, head tipped
a little to one side as if you know
we’re there, watching you, your lovely back,
pale and curvaceous legs, while
a diaphanous white scroll of chiffon
probably hides nothing from Joseph
who holds up the music for you, Angel
(a part-book for four voices—but where
are they, those singers?), to guide the violin.

Theory of the Human Figure

In the painting, she is the mother
of god; in the studio, she is merely
M’s whore, model he can afford.
It is she is who re-arranges
their messy linens to hide the stains
before she steps into her pose.
But how lovely that raised
face seems when lit from below.

Look at the way the light falls.
How should we measure—up
and down from some bronze meridian?
Or from the crowded platform at
the torn edge of light where her voice
must have seemed water bubbling
sheathed in a ruddy flesh,
flame as clear as music, bracing?

Mary Crow went to Egypt in January 2011 for a residency in El Gouna and flew into a revolution, from which sprung As the Real Keeps Slipping. Her most recent book of translations is Roberto Juarroz’s Vertical Poetry: Last Poems, a finalist for a Poetry Translation Award from PEN USA.

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