Upon reading the title of George David Clark’s poem, “Washing Your Feet” my mind involuntarily brought forth images of Pope Francis in thick white linens, bowing his head to kiss the soft skin on soaked feet. This motif of intimacy and purity captured in these reverent moments introduced by the title, do not halt when we enter the poem, but rather continue into the first quatrain — in which the speaker addresses us stating, “Reader, they are dirty, you’ve come so far” ( L 1). The ambiguity presented via “dirty” and “far” is explained later in this stanza, through the descriptions of the filth humanity tends to tread through, and via the reference to the sandals of Jesus, that carried him on his journey through life. However, before Clark provides us with these bouts of concrete images and biblical references, he suspends us in our own truth, asking us to consider where we have come from. Clark does this well by paralleling our sins to the smut we’ve sunk our feet in.
In the second stanza, our speaker addresses us again, this time offering us his seat. Here in the gut of the poem, we dive deeper into the potency of Clark’s cleansing motif, as the narrator caters to us as if we are battered beings, weakening under our vices. The stanza ends with the speaker directing us to “slide bruised heels into [his] lap.”(L 8). If the command to rest our burdens is not clear enough, Clark ends the line with an end stop, forcing us to rest our mouths as well. When we move on to the last stanza, a sestet in which our narrator begins cleansing our feet, we flee from the cleansing; Our dirt and burdens settle in the water alongside our narrator, giving him only a brief glimpse of the nature within us.
Clark’s poem is one that beautifully assigns the reader the responsibilities of correcting their moral infractions, without knowing what they are. He uses the power of reflection brought on by the second-person narration, to create tenderness and a sense of safety within the poem — thus giving the reader an opportunity to reflect without judgment. It’s a lovely poem that calls us to consider the morals and values we have in our lives, and moreover, whether or not we are adhering to them.
— Andrea Rodriguez, Blogger.
Andrea Rodriguez’s Bio
Andrea Rodriguez is a senior at Lewis University. Prior to attending Lewis, she completed her associates at the College of DuPage. Rodriguez is studying English Literature in order to pursue a career as an academic librarian. As for her interests, Andrea loves spending time with her family, being in nature, taking care of her plants, writing, cooking, and traveling when she can. Andrea also enjoys exploring unique writing styles. Some of her favorite pieces include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man by James Weldon Johnson and “Girl” by Jamaica Kincaid. In addition to being a fiction/poetry editor for Jet Fuel Review, Rodriguez is the editor-in-chief of Lewis Voices, and the administrative director for Sigma Tau Delta, of which she is also a member.