Virgin on the Verge of Conceiving the Word

by Susie Whelehan | The Sky Laughs At Borders

Virgin on the Verge of Conceiving the Word

Just before the angel came

Mary taught herself to read.

She must have.

Then girls were not taught much more than

unleavened bread baking and

how to carry jugs of water from the well on your head but,


in this rendition of the Annunciation

she is holding a book.

And in this one, and this one and this one.

I wish I could make out the title.

The Handmaid’s Tale? 

No, as much as Atwood would love that.

Perhaps, The Testament.

It wasn’t “Old” because the “New”

was about to begin that very day.

It wouldn’t have been a book of baby names

as having a baby was not on her immaculate mind.

Besides, she didn’t even get to name her son.

An angel told Joseph in a dream and that was that.


Angels certainly made a lot of visits back then.

Where are they now when we need them?

Can’t one find its way to the White House

with a message for the incumbent

that The Holy Family had to flee their homeland

and become, what is that word?

Oh, yes. Refugees.

And if Egypt had built a wall

Herod would have caught them and killed that baby

and then where would we be?

Nevermind! Take a deep breath. Focus on Mary.



So, there she was, reading,

minding her own business when—

What? Did she have an inkling?

Butterflies in her stomach? A craving for olives?

Was there a rustling of wings? A shimmering halo?

The faint scent of Frankincense?

What made her look up?

What made her say, “Yes”?

What was she reading?

Where can I get a copy?

©  Susan Mary Whelehan


Fra Angelico, “Annunciation” (Detail) (Photo: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain)