And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.—King James Bible, Luke 1:26–38

“Annunciation in Nabokov and Starr”: Italicized phrases in this poem are taken from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Starr Report by Kenneth Starr.

“Notes on a 39-Year-Old Body”: The language of each section is taken from the combined text of the two epigraphs. Imported language is marked in brackets.

“So-and-So Descending from the Bridge”: A mother threw her two children off the Sellwood Bridge in Portland, Oregon, in the early morning hours of May 23, 2009. One child died; one survived.

“Another True Story”: Thank you to Roger Cohen for sharing the photograph and for relating Bert Cohen’s story so powerfully in the essay “Lake Water Reflections.” The essay, in adapted form, will appear in his forthcoming family memoir, The Girl from Human Street.

“Annunciation in Byrd and Bush”: Italicized phrases in this poem, words of Senator Robert Byrd and President George W. Bush, are taken from various sources including:

George W. Bush’s Address to a Joint Session of Congress, September 20, 2001, and “Remarks by the President to Coal Miners and Their Families and Their Community,” Green Tree Fire Department, Green Tree, Pennsylvania, 2002.

Senator Robert Byrd’s remarks to the Senate on February 13, 2003 (Congressional Record 108th Congress).

“To the Dove within the Stone”: This poem appeared as part of the Manual Labors exhibit at the Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar in Denver, Colorado.

“How (Not) to Speak of God”: The title is taken from Peter Rollins’s book of the same name.

“Yet Not Consumed”: “And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed.” —Exodus 3:2

“On Wanting to Tell [      ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes”: “Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a lone sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you sit in the winter months to dine with your thanes and counselors. Inside there is a comforting fire to warm the room; outside, the wintry storms of snow and rain are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the wintry storms; but after a few moments of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the darkness whence he came. Similarly, man appears on earth for a little while, but we know nothing of what went before this life, and what follows.” —Bede, A History of the English Church and People. This poem is for Donald Justice.

“The Cathars Etc.”: “Here at the isolated Lastours castles, which were built along a defensive cliff spur, the Cathars spent much of 1209 heroically fending off the onslaught. So the crusader leader, the sadistic Simon de Montfort, resorted to primitive psychological warfare. He ordered his troops to gouge out the eyes of 100 luckless prisoners, cut off their noses and lips, then send them back to the towers led by a prisoner with one remaining eye.” — “The Besieged and the Beautiful in Languedoc” by Tony Perrottet, The New York Times, May 6, 2010.

“Happy Ideas”: “And why that cerulean color? The blue comes partly from the sea, partly from the sky. While water in a glass is transparent, it absorbs slightly more red light than blue … the red light is absorbed out and what gets reflected back to space is mainly blue.”—Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

“Here, There Are Blueberries”: The italicized phrases are adapted from Anat Cohen, as quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg in his 2004 New Yorker article, “Among the Settlers”: “You don’t live just to keep living. That’s not the point of life.” This poem is for my father, Charles A. Szybist.