Articles/Essays – Volume 55, No. 4

Third Place: Penitent Magdalene, Donatello

Shock of aging
in a wooden sculpture—
more than years
displayed here,
her gaunt
and weathered face
portraying time had its way—
sunken eyes,
broken teeth,
parched and haggard lips.

The cathedral
of her hands
forms a gothic arch
below her chin
suggesting prayer,
her frail body embraced
by heavy strands
of hair ropes
forming a belt
around her waist, cascading
all the way down her
elongated torso, a frayed
shawl once enfolding

She’s given all that up
to a skeletal faith that asks
forgiveness, that pleads
through her veins, grains
of white poplar, for
nourishment beyond time,
beyond the sculptor’s art
breathing into soft,
striated wood the praise
and passion of deep
change, the crucible
of new life,
the oxygen
of sacrifice.

Listen to the Out Loud audio version of this poem here.