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Water splashed from the bucket,
darkening a spot of coarse cloth covering her breast.
She tried brushing it off, in vain, as it darkened like blood,
conforming to every contour beneath.
Looking at her hand, opened and damp with life, she gasped,
suddenly seeing another life there, like a fortune told,
the sensation of another hand in hers,
even though she knew she was alone at the well.
In her swoon, she let the bucket fall to the earth.
Kneeling, unconscious of the splattered mud,
she placed her hands around the emptied vessel
and exhaled, spent and without orientation.
Her reflection in the mud shifted,
a trick of perspective and shadow.
A new outline formed, a fluid silhouette,
and a voice like the infinite surf pounded against her.
"You have the seed of life within you,"
said her mind using syntax independent of reason.
"'A gift,' your child will say,
"'I am the gift freely given.
Her mouth, gaping and silent,
confessed without words that she did not believe.
"This cannot be," was what her countenance wore
as armor against all unexpected joy. And change.
The muddy portal surrounding her feet dissolved,
reconfiguring like a moment, here and gone again,
hinting that, indeed, a future awaits, live and thirsting,
even from a present so heavy and unknowable.
"His name is Love," said her mind, of both future and child.
"Love, which is before knowing; love, the intent of life.
"And he shall be as the bread you eat, the water you drink,
"and fill you, even as you nourish him in turn."
"I am not worthy," she said aloud, as hands helped her to her feet,
as women from the village gathered, worrying,
holding their questions inside like swollen kegs of wine.
"I am not worthy of this."
And Mary cried, not from the guilt of unworthiness,
nor from the gratitude of the saved.
Her tears were a fount of seeing, not blindness, and she cried
from the knowledge that she was worthy, indeed,
and now must begin, living.
Annunciation © 2000 by Tobin James Mueller
"Ash" published by ArtsForge Press.
All rights reserved.