Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday, George Washington, and Poetry

The General did not do this at Valley Forge--or in Church.

For some odd reason, calendar coincidences have often started my poetic juices flowing.  First was the coincidence of the First Sunday of Advent and World AIDS Awareness Day some years ago.   That one made it into my book We Build Temples in the Heart.  There was the time in 2005 when Rosa Parks was laid out in the Capitol Rotunda on Halloween.

Then there was the congruence one year of the first day of Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, and the day before the anniversary of September 11 that resulted in a piece called If I Wore Stars on a Pointed Hat.  In 2010 the Winter Solstice coincided with a Lunar eclipse.  Last October the a new moon fell on the mutual birthday of Dylan Thomas and Sylvia Plath so naturally I wrote a poem called How Black the Night.

Last year Ash Wednesday was very much later in the year and ended up on Earth Day.  So I had to write about that.

The thing is, this is not necessarily a good idea.  Most of these events are a onetime only or a once-in-blue-moon occurrence.  So a poem honoring the occasion may have limited general appeal.  Worse yet, I usually don’t become inspired until the day is upon me.  This means that I have no time to send it out for placement in some prestigious venue which could time the publication.  So I end up posting the verses here on the Blog where they are always in danger of becoming immediately ephemeral.

But I can’t seem to help myself.  This year Ash Wednesday comes round on Washington’s Birthday.

What’s a fellow to do?

The Vestryman
Ash Wednesday/Washington’s Birthday 2012

The Vestryman performing the duty expected of the local Squire
            attended chapel when absolutely necessary
            and when no good excuse like fighting an Empire
            or Fathering a Country was handy.

He sat bolt upright on a rigid pew
            contemplated the charms of Lady Fairfax
                        or later dental misery.

            When came the Altar Call, he would stand up,
                        turn on his heel, and march straight out
                        as if a legion was at his back.

            No filthy priestly thumb ever grimed
                        that noble brow.

—Patrick Murfin

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