Annunciation (‘A Lady Reading’)

I am painting myself
with the Virgin’s face.
I am Mary, waiting for the angel –

The room is still, the red-checked curtain
falls across a corner of the table.
There is a spotted cushion on the chair

and a book – leatherbound, dark brown –
whose pages spread open in my fingers
like a fan, like wings.

The way that I have placed things
so precisely – a pencil on the table
the dark folds of my skirt –

and the way that brushes fondle into life
cherry-reds and olive-greens,
the mulberry colours of the dress I wear

– all this can make the spirit shift
the way that grains of sand

slip through an hourglass
so that even a room of checkered curtains
and a wicker chair is holy

and the woman who inhabits it
may paint herself as Mary
waiting and waiting for the angel –

From The Blue Flower: Poems from the life and art of Gwen John
© Elizabeth Burns