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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: India (02/12/09)

TITLE: The Greatest Sacrifice
By Holly Westefeld
02/19/09


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With downcast eyes
I sit aside your still form,
Fold back the shroud,
And gaze upon your grayish face.
Fingering flint and iron atop your pyre,
I ponder piety,
Assured by sharing your afterlife.

Else wise, we are parted forever.

I lift my eyes
And rest them on our daughters and our sons--
The younger clinging to the older--
The older staring stone-faced.
Fingering flint and iron atop your pyre,
I wrestle with certain shame,
Assured by shunning such devotion.

Else wise, we are parted forever.

With shuttered eyes
I remember a man,
Strange of speech,
Pale of face.
Fingering flint and iron atop your pyre,
I finally fathom faith you professed
In one whose sacrifice assures salvation.

Else wise, we are parted forever.

Uplifted eyes
View heavens anew.
The shroud replaced,
I look to Christ.
Flicking flint and iron atop your pyre,
Flames consume your shell
As I return to sons and daughters with good news.

Else wise, we are parted forever.

**********

Author's note:
The practice of sati, (or suttee,) a widow sacrificing herself on her husband's funeral pyre, has been outlawed in India for nearly 200 years, but isolated occurrences are still reported.


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This article has been read 485 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Angela M. Baker-Bridge02/19/09
Well told reenactment of a tradition that added to the grief of many women.
Leah Nichols 02/21/09
Very powerful entry. The repetitive phrases are set just right and the poem reads beautifully.

The only thing I'd change is to give a tiny bit more of a note to the reader. I've heard of suttee so it made perfect sense to me, but for someone who's not heard of it, the poem may be a bit confusing.

Also the line "pale of face" bothers me but I'm not sure how you would choose to change that.

Well done! You are very talented with poetry.
Virginia Bliss 02/21/09
I enjoyed this piece. It brings attention to the practice of sati which as you point out, has not completely disappeared.
Sonya Leigh02/22/09
You do very well with your poetic imagery, it's like a balm to the soul...keep writing those poems.
Seema Bagai 02/22/09
Powerful images in this poem. Have sent you a critique via PM.
Jan Ackerson 02/23/09
Wonderful, and fantastic use of repetition. This was moving and beautiful.
Benjamin Graber03/04/09
Holly, this is excellent! This poem was so well written, I don't have much red ink offer.
My only thought to consider is that the line "As I return to sons and daughters with good news" didn't give the "punch" that it could have. The imagery you used through the poem really communicated with my heart, and I think if you had used more imagery in that last line, the ending would have been more powerful.
I really liked the flow of this poem, and the use of repetition even as the poem developed. You did an excellent joy of combining both the poetical tool of repetition and still developing the poem through each stanza.
Excellent job! I hope you try your hand at more free verse in the future!
Blessings,
Ben