01.4.2007

Fra Angelico at the Met

The careful, golden light
holds them all – the wounded

supplicant, leg crooked and
bandaged foot, the rotund
cleric who drops a coin

in an open palm, the
calm virgin, and the child
on her lap, reaching out

to the world – the solid
flesh, round limbs and faces,
peaceful eyes. What burdens

there are – the crucified
God, somehow in repose,
or the crippled beggar

balanced on his crutch – are
made beautiful, an all-
too-human transgression,

a strange kindness, so that
the torment of the sick,
of the tortured martyrs,

their headless bodies that
once were bathed in pain, and

are now covered with the
light of grace, are simply

a matter of course, bright
red spatters of blood an

inevitable turn
of events, like the folds
of the red and green robes

of witnesses and of
victims alike. Rilke

must have been thinking of
him when he asked, whom can
we ever turn to in

our need – the light, at last,
a mystery to the
lost and to the redeemed.

Burt Kimmelman (© 2007)