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Katherine Jeffrey

Honorable Mention : 2008 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest $100

About this Christian Poet:
For more than 30 years I have been working for book publishers in Canada, the US, and the UK, correcting and polishing the words of other (sometimes well-known) writers. It is daunting to be stepping out of the shadows now and risking my own words on the world. But I take comfort in the counsel of Vincent van Gogh: “if you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” I have published a handful of poems in small magazines, and have several short stories in circulation.

About this Poem:
The idea for “Eva / Ave” first came to me many years ago while I was a graduate student, immersed in the study of medieval and Renaissance Christian poetry. I wanted not only to consider theological symmetries between the first and second Eve but also to explore the human side of both women’s suffering—the anxiety that dogs Eve as she tries in vain to put things right again, and the sheer singularity and incomprehensibility of Mary’s submission, through which, alone, the remedy is made possible

Eva / Ave

            First mother
            has learned in the shade of the tree of knowledge, grief:
            she cannot meet her soulmate's new-created need.
            His flesh recoils from healing-meaning touch;
            the furtive pain in eyes and stealthy hush
            unsettle her, bring shame to nakedness.
            Her Adam, mirror of their kindred joy,
            he cannot countenance her.
            And she without the eye of his beholding
            sees only his and not her own disfigured image.
            She was mistaken, is now
            become the emblem of his loss,
            and every effort to console, redeem the beauty
            of shared garden grace, breeds guilt alone,
            dread offspring of their broken trothe.
            Sin only cannot the love of woman bear:
            she has wooed him into pain for which there is no remedy in her.

            heavy with child and deep in the shadow of winter, waits:
            the night so bleak and cold, unwelcoming.
            Within her, Creator clamoring to be born
            as indifferent creatures forage in hay.
            "How can this be, since I am still a maid?"
            she asked the flaming stranger, mystified.
            Now, a strong hand moves to cradle her head,
            another smoothes damp tangles from her brow.
            Dear, patient Joseph, closer than air,
            more distant than starlight tonight,
            he who has known only the miracle.
            She cries out now as shuddering pain
            descends upon her, wave on wave,
            the ancient curse unleashed, undone, in blood-soaked birth
            while overhead, the barn's cross-membered beams
            betoken dread she cannot comprehend.
            In her travail deliverance is sealed at last:
            the grace she bears will carry Adam's sin and Eva's shame.

Copyright ©2008 by Katherine Jeffrey