POETRY: Annunciation, by Primo Levi
Don’t be dismayed, woman, by my fierce form.
I come from far away, in headlong flight;
Whirlwinds may have ruffled my feathers.
I am an angel, yes, and not a bird of prey;
An angel, but not the one in your paintings
That descended in another age to promise another Lord.
I come to bring you news, but wait until my heaving chest,
The loathing of the void and dark, subside.
Sleeping in you is one who will destroy much sleep.
He’s still unformed but soon you’ll caress his limbs.
He will have the gift of words, the fascinator’s eyes,
Will preach abomination and be believed by all.
Jubilant and wild, singing and bleeding,
They’ll follow him in bands, kissing his footprints.
He will carry the lie to the farthest borders.
Evangelize with blasphemy and the gallows.
He’ll rule in terror, suspect poisons
In spring-water, in the air of high plateaus.
He’ll see deceit in the clear eyes of the newborn,
And die unsated by slaughter, leaving behind sown hate.
This is your growing seed. Woman, rejoice.
I’d be interested to know what prompted Primo Levi to write this and also what prompted you to post this.
Primo Levi was a Jewish chemist and writer, who spent almost a year in Auschwitz. Like many Jews of his days, even some of my own in-laws, he saw the connection between the Nazi government and the Roman Catholic Church. Living through World War II as a Jew in Europe, I imagine, is what prompted this poem.
I published it because I am fascinated by varying viewpoints of all things Christian. To one man, Jesus is a gentle savior. But to others, he is the face of fascism and terrorism. You and I may know that those Christians who supported the Nazi regime weren’t really behaving as Christians, but were using their Christian facade to hide what was true about them.
But we can’t expect a survivor of a concentration camp to see things that way.
Another thing I love about this poem is the portrait of an evil angel. And there are evil angels in the Bible. It’s shocking to think of the angel coming to Mary as an evil one. But I like shocking poetry. I think that poetry is a kind of “safe” place to read shocking things.
Thank you for your questions.
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