Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.

Christine Perrin & Fra Angelico

Fra Angelico: Adoration

Fra Angelico’s Adoration, San Marco, Florence

by Christine Perrin

In this scene, it is still the beginning, though inches below 
the festival of discovery, gouged into the wall, is the man in the tomb 
with death tools—sopping sponge and spear.

Angelico has juxtaposed his bloody Son of Man to the infant— 
blood spills his ropy veined inner-arms where the tender flesh is pale 
and the mica-flecked wall glitters like the surface of the moon.

In this season and region the olive trees are heavy with dark fruit;
all one afternoon I gathered them with my hands to be crushed. 
You have to grasp the bitter flesh-pits and drop them in a net,

Beyond the near-winter fields only the hour bells carried 
over the gulf from high city to shadowed valley.
The monk who woke and slept and filled his eyes

with this bright painting all his days, did he see the end
in the beginning: an arc, an arrow, a shape in nature?
Did its heart-tip burn the mark like a black candle in dull noon?

My sight searches and searches, as though to go to Him.
So many buried lamps. What shall I take for a witness?
Angelico’s blue? Fruit breaking loose from a tree?

The guard’s heavy footfall on the stone floor? Words he spoke 
in a tongue I could not understand, when I broke into song 
to sound the cell, to hear the empty chamber answer.


Christine Perrin holds a B.A. in Writing Seminars from JohnsHopkinsUniversity and an M.F.A. (Master of Fine Arts) from the University of Maryland, where she concentrated in poetry. Christine has taught literature and poetry at JohnsHopkinsUniversity and MessiahCollege, as well as the Gordon in Orvieto program. She has also taught poetry at various K-12 schools, teaching at every level and consults with schools on literature curricula. Christine has published many poems in publications such as Image Magazine, The Sewanee Review, TriQuarterly, Christianity and Literature, The New England Review and many others. She has twice received fellowships from the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts and from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference. 


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