Friday, April 11, 2014

Little Flowers

Little flowers
winding round
and climbing 
up the cross -

did your best
to stop your blooming.
To stay small and unassuming.
Less substantial than a prayer.
Just bones and barely there.

The Little Flowers'
Book of Hours
taught you
that your God

had cursed your weaker flesh -
made the forgetting of your sex
the fruit and vine.
So you spilled yourselves
like wine.

Long, tedious note:  Little Flower was the nickname given to St. Theresa of Lisieux.  Like many of the holy women of her time, St. Theresa practiced mortification of the flesh.  Mortification was common among both nuns and monks from medieval times through the Renaissance, but women were particularly hardcore.  Genital mutilation, anorexia, amputation of the breasts, facial disfigurement . . . the mortification practiced by women seemed directed at their femininity.  To become holy (and to attain what little power was available to women in the church) was to control and negate sexuality.  It's an idea that has taken hold and wound its way down through the generations . . . like a wisteria vine.

For Hannah's prompt at Real Toads


Sylvia K said...

Thanks for your note -- not tedious at all, but informative. Sad, but lovely words about/from Little Flower! Have a great weekend and some good wine!

Sumana Roy said...

nice comparison with a prefect close
....and thanks for the interesting note..without it couldn't be near
Little Flowers..

Hannah said...

I second that...your note gave the reread...much more impacting...winding wisteria indeed. Wow. Thank you MZ for this!

Kerry O'Connor said...

It says something, I suppose, that I am still shocked by the practice of self-mutilation and mutilation of others for the purposes of custom, religion or whatever. But then I see such things in teenaged girls: the cutting, the anorexia all seem to be a manifestation of self-loathing rather than higher purpose.

The wisteria appears so fragile, like the little flower of your piece, but the vine beneath is strong and can last 1000 years.

Very effective writing.

Siggi in Downeast Maine said...

Thank your for sharing your poem
and the interesting and not tedious note at the end...I vaguely remembered the information after reading your note, but could have never pulled it from the recesses of my mind.

Margaret said...

…I have a petal (supposedly) that was blessed and touched her casket. I think the sexual pendulum has swung to the opposite extreme! Neither is good. An amazing poem… Medieval times … so glad I'm on this side of history.

Fireblossom said...

Yes, she was a tiny thing. She could probably hide her light, her lady parts, and a Plymouth or two under a bushel.

Susie Clevenger said...

I knew where this was going as soon as I began reading sad that women were/are forced to mutilate who they are to become what men require...wonderful, thought provoking piece!

Grandmother (Mary) said...

This is an amazing poem but I appreciate your historical background. The carry over to today is obvious but still painful and based on such deep prejudices taught and practiced in the name of religion and divine truth. Imagine! And our pure, precious daughters and granddaughters struggle against all that.

Kerridwen said...

Interesting take on the prompt!

hedgewitch said...

one of your very best, MZ--full of substance and pathos, yet written without any sort of pretension--I wonder if you know that to get wisteria to bloom before it wants to, it is often 'abused' at the stem, scarred and cut, bruised and beaten. An excellent job of looking deeper than the cliche.

grapeling said...

jeebus. after reading this and HW's piece, I'm not very fond of wisteria. ~