She did not seek this role. She contemplated her pose, the way her body was placed rigidly on the dais inside the carefully staged script. Why had they shaved her head, bleached her skin until it reflected like the porcelain doll they placed on the stiff folds of her heavy cape? Who had created this idea of an infant, disproportionate and so unlike any real child?
The crown, heavy and ill-suited to her countenance, threatened to tumble from its uneasy perch. As did her entire being from the painted backdrop, so eerie and haunted—the flattened throne, the red demon angels who lacked either substance or joy. The wall behind it all, painted blue to match her skimpy dress, conjured no images of either nature or heavenly dream.
And why expose a breast that could neither give sustenance or be received by an artists’ idea of a child? Real children were indeed holy, scared even, alive in all their chaotic glory. Real angels were full of light, kin to birds, to the cosmos that shone in the actual sky. A real mother would be full of the earth, flesh blood and breath.
She thought of seeds being planted, how the light returns each year to bring the world to life. She longed to be standing, unadorned, down there, amidst the cacophony of this crowded orb.
a child comes to be
Jean Fouquet’s Virgin and Child Surrounded by Angels was the Ekphrastic Review prompt challenge this week. My haibun was not chosen, but even among the ones published on the website today, there was some ambivalence about this representation of mother and child. I obviously had more than some. You can read the selections on the website here, and Jane Dougherty’s responses to the painting, here.