“Saved or Spared” by Devon Balwit

Agnes Was Here by Jody Kennedy

Image: “Agnes Was Here” by Jody Kennedy. “Saved or Spared” was written by Devon Balwit for Rattle’s Ekphrastic Challenge, September 2017, and selected as the Artist’s Choice.

[download: PDF / JPG]


Devon Balwit


No meek Agnos dei those
Catholic girls, plaid-skirted

and ready to fight as we huddled
on their turf awaiting the bus

that would ferry us across town
to our school. Above our heads,

in a shatter of stained glass,
hung our poor relative, their

Christ, as trapped as we,
all of us inheriting our stories,

red-letter, calfskin, skinned
knuckles, the slam of a shot-

glass, the kick of a shotgun.
Still womb-wet, we found ourselves

on hostile ground, did our best
to identify the threat, then stood

shoulder to shoulder with those
closest at hand. Befuddled,

we aped furious, anything to stay
behind the punch. We envied

their uniforms, they, our freedom,
neither able to state our creeds

to save our lives. Each day when
the airbrakes hissed, and the doors

swung open, we sighed, unsure
if we’d been saved or merely spared.

from Ekphrastic Challenge
September 2017, Artist’s Choice


Comment from the artist, Jody Kennedy, on this selection: “I really appreciated all of the poems I read (thank you poets), but in the end this writer’s interpretation of the image won me over. It was one of several poems with, surprisingly, a Catholic theme, which I loved. There is a beautiful back and forth tension and in the end we aren’t quite sure, as the title implies, ‘if we’d been saved or merely spared.’”

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