Ellen Wright

The Presentation Icon

                – after an illuminated manuscript

Suppose you are a devout aristocrat
a dowager countess perhaps and suppose
it has been a dull winter in your drafty
castle with little company and all you want

is for your abbé to put together a nice
Candlemas service to celebrate the midpoint
between the winter solstice and the vernal
equinox and so resuscitate your lagging faith

that spring will ever return. Then suppose
you go early into the chapel to prepare
by reading through the lovely Nunc dimittis.
You open your prayer book and your attention

becomes entangled in the leaves and tendrils
entwined around the curves of the N and is
led into the family drama encircled by them.
Supppose it passes the staid father Joseph

with his pair of pigeons and lingers
momentarily upon the horrified expression
on the face of the priest (in a mitre!)
over the transgression of his authority by

the prophet Simeon eyeballing his promise
of ages into the Baby Jesus. If your
expectation that your abbé’s distribution
of beeswax candles will be followed by

crocuses poking through the mud and
woodland critters stumbling from their
burrows is not shaken by the intensity
of the gaze shared by Jesus and Simeon

it will be shattered by the fluttering hands
of the new mother frantically grasping
to try and save her child from
the prescience of the wild-eyed old man.