Wednesday, February 10, 2016

George Washington’s Ash Wednesday—Murfin Verse

A flurry of calendar coincidences inspire poetry.

Note—The Old Man is slowly recovering and reducing his pitiful whimpering.  But still not up to snuff.  So I am reaching into my old bag of tricks and pulling out another Moldy Oldie for Ash Wednesday;
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 11that resulted in a piece called If I Wore Stars on a Pointed Hat.  In 2010 the Winter Solstice coincided with a Lunar eclipse.  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.  In 2011 Good Friday ended up on Earth Day.   I had to write about that.
Ash Wednesday                                                                                                   

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.  That 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.  In 2012 Ash Wednesday come  around on Washington’s Birthday.
What’s a fellow to do?

Despite this window in the Congressional Chapel in the Capitol, the popular image of Washington in reverent prayer receiving the so called Vision of Valley Forge was invented out of thin air by his early hack "biographer" Parson Weeems.  Elevated to the status of a virtual saint by American Evangelicals, Washington's religious views were much more nuanced and complex.  He dutifully fulfilled the roles appointed him as a leading gentleman of his Anglican parish.  He attended services as rarely as possible and always left before communion.  He was influenced the Deists, but his true religion may have been his cherished Free Masonry.

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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