John Ciardi

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Washing Your Feet

Ciardi, John

Last Updated: Mar-05-2002
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem


From the mundane to the profound, from the body as physical preoccupation to the body as sacred, the poet explores in 21 highly personalized lines the significance and symbolism of the human body. Washing your feet without giving it a thought means you are in good health; struggling to do it because of overweight is a reminder of mortality. This (any) physical act "should be ritual . . . memorial, meditative, immortal." It conjures up an image of the Degas ballet dancers washing their feet, and then, remarkably, that " . . . they also seemed to be washing God’s feet."

But the creative power of Degas is yet another reminder of the author’s limitations. He is vulnerable, mortal and not creative enough to gain immortality by producing a masterpiece: "It is sad to be naked and to lack talent."

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