after The Visitation, a painting by Stanley Spencer
Morning has arrived, a milky gray,
the long reach
of some new light—
and in Spencer’s vision of their meeting,
we see what the witness saw:
Elizabeth dressed as if to leave—
Smart hat. Her bright tweeds.
And Mary, a shy girl, restless as the air,
wearing a white pinafore. Her face marked
by the tumult of what she holds inside.
Their hands clasp. A shared surprise.
What does the one who sees it all
make of what these two have made?
Why is she there? It’s just
one morning, small and transitory,
but she’ll carry with her, always,
some relic of that time, the three
The way Mary stands in the doorway.
The trees behind her, river-dark.
A single bright slice of sky.
Show me again that anything can happen,
she’ll think. Let me, too, be shaped by this.
And years later, she’ll recognize Mary’s boy,
now grown to be a man who allows
the blind to see: men as trees, walking—
a vision glittering and strange—
as in the old, old stories, where all is changed:
the coin, the sheep, the child.
All lost once. Now reconciled.
Margaret Mackinnon’s first book, The Invented Child, was awarded the Gerald Cable Book Award and the 2014 Literary Award in Poetry given by the Library of Virginia. A chapbook, Naming the Natural World, won the Sow’s Ear Poetry Review chapbook competition and was published in 2018. Her work has appeared in Poetry, New England Review, Quarterly West, and many other journals. Recent work has appeared in The American Journal of Poetry, Relief, Image, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Blackbird. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.