"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Poetry: Ash Wednesday by Anya Krugovoy Silver

I’ve never heard of Anya Silver, but I did come across this poem in Sarah Arthur’s Between Midnight and Dawn: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Lent, Holy Week, and Eastertide, which is a  Lenten collection of literature.  

As I searched around for information on Ms. Silver, I found she’s a professor of English at Mercer University in Georgia, a published poet of two anthologies, and she won Georgia’s author of the year award for the poetry category in 2015. She’s apparently a rising contemporary poet, and I hope she doesn't mind me posting her poem.

The poem is to commemorate today’s initiation of Lent, Ash Wednesday.  

Ash Wednesday
By Anya Krugovoy Silver

How comforting, the smudge on each forehead:
I’m not to be singled out after all.
From dust you came. To dust you will return.
My mastectomy, a memento mori,
prosthesis smooth as a polished skull.
I like the solidity of this prayer,
the ointment thumbed into my forehead,
my knees pressing hard on the velvet rail.
If God won’t give me His body to clutch,
I’ll grind this soot in my skin instead.
If it can’t hold the flame that burned by breast,
I’ll char my brow; I’ll blacken my pores; I’ll flaunt
with ash this flaw in His creation.

From that little bio on her article, we do learn she is a cancer survivor.  The poem has a ring of personal experience.  A momento mori is a symbol of one’s mortality, such as a skull, which Silver nicely sneaks into the fifth line.  A momento mori is also a reflection on one’s mortality, such as the famous “Alas poor Yorick!” passage in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  And so this whole poem is a momento mori, as is the ash cross that is placed on one’s forehead today. 
 

I really love the last five lines of the poem with those conditional “if” statements:

If God won’t give me His body to clutch,
I’ll grind this soot in my skin instead.
If it can’t hold the flame that burned by breast,
I’ll char my brow; I’ll blacken my pores; I’ll flaunt

with ash this flaw in His creation. 

How wonderful.  I hope you do get your ashes today.



3 comments:

  1. Thank you Manny. Wishing you a reflective and holy Lent period.

    God bless.

    ReplyDelete
  2. A Blessed Lenten season to you, Manny!

    ReplyDelete