Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Ash and Palm

My Reading of “Ash and Palm” by Mookie Katigbak


Creation and Crucifixion. These are the two religious-related-words that right away entered my mind after I read the title, “Ash and Palm.”

I associated the word “ash” to the Creation of Man according to Genesis. In this creation myth, we are told that before any plant had appeared, before any rain had fallen, and while a mist watered the earth, the LORD God formed a man (Heb. adam) from dust/ash of the ground (Heb. adamah), and he breathed "the breath of life" into his nostrils, and the man became a "living creature" (Heb. nephesh).

I related the word “palm” to the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross. On Psalm 22:16-17 Jesus said “Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet. I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me."

With these associations, I assumed that “Ash and Palm” is just one of the traditional poems which are intended to teach important truths. But as I go along with the content, I have found a very strong use of imagery. In an instant, I felt the mixture of ecstasy and pain “When the magician traces onto his palm The smallest bit of ash from the tip of cigarette Skirting the mound as though flirting with pain.”

Through the vivid use of words, Friday, the magician’s girl, amazed me when she opened her hand “to reveal Ash on the self-same place, though the cigarette Has neither touched nor grazed her fisted hands.” When I reached the third up to the seventh stanza, I went back to the story of the suffering of Jesus Christ on the cross but this time I perceived “Ash and Palm” as a great example of a poem that recreates experiences and feelings so vividly that readers are drawn into it to relive the moment of insight of the poet. (How to Build a Long-Lasting Fire Writing Poems from Your Life by Morrison, Carrol)

I saw the third to the seventh stanzas as literary flashbacks of the Miracle-Maker who’s in our minds; the pierce of nails that marks His pain marks ours.

And to
Our minds, the burn of ash that marks his pain
Marks her.

Then, I accepted the eight and ninth stanzas as manifestations of Christian acts; hoping to make life a vessel he/she could intuit other lives from and confessing that he/ she was once a living stain and if not by the sacrifice of Christ will continue to be one. Once again, these stanzas are just manifestations not a blatant approach of reminding the virtuous ways.

And through the last stanza, “what is there to know, how do I say Go Home, there are no enchantments here, but for a loneliness one can’t and does not know alone”, the poet seems to remind me that “Ash and Palm” is not a sermon but magnificent poem alone, leaving me an important lesson on writing this craft:

Poetry is art, and the role of art is to reflect life, not to teach story.