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We had been pointing out the smallest details,
often on the periphery, Icarus falling,
nearly invisible, only legs left disappearing into the Aegean.
No one in that painting was watching it happen,
but here in this one, in the Palazzo in Florence,
the figure in the background shielded his eyes from the sun
to look up directly at the object.
A spaceship, my son pointed out. I turned
to look closer and correct him. This was the fifteenth century.
But there was the ship, in a spiral curve of light.

It went beyond a cloud or a star, this messenger,
such an unusual angel.

The spiral took me to the fresco from years before in Kosovo,
The Crucifixion, with two figures riding inside their stars
on either end of the wall above the altar.
There is a word we have given to what we can’t
quite understand or explain, or to what separates us—
Ruth in tears amid the alien corn,
the way the stars shone alien and remote
that afternoon in the painting in the Palazzo,
then followed us into the evening
and all the way home.

­—Diane Thiel

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