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Timothy Donnelly


Saint Bride


Duncan’s angels, whose red-black-pink and gold-green wings

     exceed the margins of the picture plane and inch

out onto the decorative border, carry the sleeping body of the saint

     across the Hebridean sea and back in time to Bethlehem where she


will be Mary’s midwife and Christ’s wet nurse. Her hands perch

     on her chest in prayer, ghostlier even than the foot

of the angel who flies in front—its face (seen in full) directing our eye

     to the face (in profile) of the saint, its toes likewise dipping


into the trim, which is of gold zig-zags, lozenges and dots on a thin

    strip of brown, outlined in madder. Here one impossibility

dances with another, and another, and as decorously as waitstaff

     at La Coupole in Paris, over which the angels might have passed if


they flew to the Nativity via the direct route. My guess is

     they did not. My guess is angels place no premium on efficiency

when trucking in miracles. When I saw the picture in Edinburgh

     I stared for half an hour before gathering the most human face in it


was the seal’s, and that it isn’t really a seal, but the artist himself

     in seal form, or else how could he have known twin seagulls flew

along in retinue, that angels’ tunics are so wickedly emblazoned, or

     which waves that night wove blue-green-blue with little bits of purple?

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