Valentine Ashes

Since young men who weren’t wed made better soldiers,
an emperor banned marriages for them.
An empire’s weight fell squarely on their shoulders,
their blood worth more than any engagement gem.
Yet Valentine, a priest, in secret, wed
men to brides, becoming patron saint
of lovers, for whose sake his blood was shed,
though some now see his holiday as quaint.
But this year it will fall when many crosses
are drawn on foreheads with a palm-frond ash,
recalling all Love’s suffering and losses,
of far more worth than jewelry or cash:
a love’s not just someone of whom you’re fond—
of blood, and ash, and sacrifice, its bond.

Franz Marc, In the Rain, 1912

Mario A. Pita

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