El Greco painted her
at a kneeler,
to face the Unexpected.
In other scenes, the backdrop
is marble, granite, velvet
or wide blue sky stretching to the horizon.
But what do young girls know
I imagine her at the marketplace,
eyeing the kohl,
but satisfied to haggle
for the price of an onion.
Who’s to say the angel
didn’t meet her
in a crowded crosswalk.
The membrane between heaven and earth
It opens and envelops us unexpectedly
like a gauze curtain billowing in wind.
Onion skin, translucent
when held to the light,
is a membrane between two worlds:
moist round bulb, on the one hand,
and, then, the light-infused air.
The curved onion dome of an Orthodox church
is a thin barrier between life as usual
and life as it might be.
Gabriel delivers the message
and Mary grasps the onion.
On her face,
tears of surprise.