The Annunciation
by Wally Swist

                    After the painting by Sandro Botticelli, circa 1485

Having taken the bodily shape of a man,
Gabriel is struck by the weight
of the news he delivers upon entering

the threshold where Mary kneels,
cloistered in the room beyond;
the spoken words nearly making

the archangel stumble, his cape trailing
behind him.  A gilded ray of light radiates
above his upturned wings and the sprig

of lilies he cradles in his left hand;
the transparent plane of his halo
holding a constellation of golden stars;

his right hand pulling up his gown
to brace his bowing in obeisance.
Upon hearing his greeting, Mary

is troubled, and begins to draw the folds
of her blue cloak across her breast
into converging shadow; the arc

of her halo like a divine hand placed
behind the white veil over her head.
Is this not how we respond to first hearing

any rejoicing, especially a message
that awakens in us the beginning
of understanding, of a life’s path unimagined,

or if imagined, then unrealized?
How do we accept what is miraculous,
other than by looking through the portals

of the vestibule where Gabriel
is about to bend to his knees,
where the life beyond informs us

with the voice of the words we hear,
and as Mary waits for what she is to become,
we listen as the one expectant?


Wally Swist’s recent poems appear or are forthcoming in Common
Ground Review
, Connecticut Review, New England Watershed
, Puckerbrush Review, Rosebud, and Stories from Where
We Live: The Eastern Woodlands
(Milkweed Editions).  His books
of poems include
Veils of the Divine (Hanover Press, 2003) and The
Silence Between Us
(Brooks Books, 2005).  A recording of a poem
from his reading in the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival in 2003 is
available at  Swist was poet-in-residence at Fort Juniper, the
Robert Francis Homestead, in North Amherst, Massachusetts, from
September 2003 through August 2005.  His website is located at

On “The Annunciation”:
I received a Christmas card with the reproduction of Botticelli’s
painting on the cover.  Immediately, I was struck by both the
beauty and the message that the painting conveyed.  Then, I
propped the card on the front window ledge above Robert
Francis’s round oak table at Fort Juniper.  I did so because I
wanted to invite “The Annunciation” into my life.  After several
weeks, the “first words” of the poem, as Rilke has written, made
themselves clear to me.  And the bulk of the poem followed in a
burst of creative heat—as if “guiding hands” moved the pen, as
if I heard the sound of Gabriel’s voice in the quiet of that cabin
through nights of snow and wind.  But it wasn’t until a year and
a half later that I was able to finish the poem.  When I awoke
one morning this summer, I heard what I believe was a channeled
voice repeating, “Clarity, simplicity.”  I revised the grammar
and syntax of the penultimate line that I was challenged with.  
Then I knew that finally the language of the entire poem worked.

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Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary

ISSN 1931-3888

Volume 1, Number 2
(Fall 2006)

Copyright © 2006
by Leah Browning, Editor.  

All future rights to material
published in the
Valley Review
are retained
by the individual authors
and artists.