A Mother's Heart (part 1)

Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

I attended a poetry retreat at the beginning of December, led by the talented Alex Donovan. One of our prompts was to write a poem in response to a piece of art, and this is what came out:

Annunciation by Henry Ossawa Tanner

It’s all there in the tilt of Mary’s head,
the slightly sideways glance
at the angel depicted only as
a blur of light – really? me?

The tension in her shoulders
a tiny hunch forward
as if to guard the inner space
about to be invaded, colonized,
enlisted into the divine project –
womb growing, tendons pulled,
heart drawn entirely
out of her body
into that rectangle
of blood red behind her bed.

It was that last image that stuck with me for weeks - heart drawn entirely out of her body. At some level any mother lives with a part of her heart on the outside, or at least it feels that way when your child is in trouble or suffering in some way. Mary is told early on that a sword would pierce her soul, and even in this moment of light and revelation, she must have known her yes would carry a price tag.

As we head into this Mother's Day weekend, I am aware of tender hearts all around me, notably seven children and young adults in our community, the children of my two friends, who are going through Mother's Day without their mothers for the first time. I've been thinking about the family of yet another young man who went for a jog in his neighborhood and didn't come home.  Love opens us to the possibility of grief, and somehow in this season grief abounds. And still we say yes, to our own children, and the ones we see growing up around us and the ones far away burdened by poverty and injustice. It's part of the divine project Mary helped launch with her maybe just a little bit hesitant, but certainly decisive, yes.

(Part 2 here)


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