Wednesday, 13 October 2010

"False Synecdoche"

In my discussion group I am going to do a close reading of the following poem with my students. The poem, like the readings every week, was assigned by the professor; we TAs merely teach what she decides. Of tomorrow's readings, I found this poem the most interesting, or at least the most interesting given the time restraints of 50 minutes for the close reading. I suppose I should give you all a language-alert. Anyway, without further ado, here is...

"Mary Magdalene's Left Foot"

I saw the picture in Newsweek or Time
and couldn't believe who was back in the news.
But there it sat, encased in antique gold
and pedestrian prose, apart from the rest
of her imaginably lush lost body,
which it recalls with false synecdoche.

The news is littered with the bodies of women
--whores, some--who have returned to minerals,
a pile of iron and zinc and calcium
that wouldn't even fill a shoe. We glimpse
of Mary Magdalene a golden whore
that never ached for flesh or grew hair coarse
enough to scrub mud from a traveler's foot.

But gold is meretricious flattery
for the whore who washed Christ's feet with tears,
who rubbed sweet oil into his sores, then kissed
each suppurating wound that swelled his flesh,
knowing that it was God's clear flesh beneath
its human dying. And that is more than you and I
will ever know of where we place our lips.

Andrew Hudgins, Saints and Strangers (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985)


So, I wonder, what think you?

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