In Leonardo’s painting, she studies
out of doors, this eminent virgin
in her habitual cloth of red and blue.
Before her on a pedestal table
encrusted with a mollusk shell, lies
an open book from which she raises her eyes
to the boy dressed in swan’s wings, wearing
a cap of curls and carrying a lily wand.
She may have seen him ahead of her
in church, his shoulders and torso
masculine and square, his hair
a tangle of innuendo.
That he comes to her in the garb
of heaven is only an accident
of myth and history, for she needs
nothing announced. The cleft in the palm
of her raised hand anticipates all he means
and she accepts only provisionally,
for he is her inspiration, not a winged
word or an unborn child. This child-man
with fabulous pinions, will cause her
to abandon the protected corner
to crush the low, delicate plants,
and dream his weight will never rise.