III. Catherine Dismembered from 'Saints' Tales: Dialogues in Solitude' “Then, standing before the door of the temple, she held a long disputation with the Caesar, arguing according to the divers modes of the syllogisms, by allegory and metaphor, by logic and mystic.” Jacobus de Voragine, The Legend of St. Catherine of Alexandria, trans. Granger Ryan and Helmut Ripperger (Arno Press, 1969), pp. 709; 715-716. Her story flares up, ignited from a clump – of hair perhaps, a shred of skin already scorched, a cinder, the dust of ash, less plausibly deciphered than a leopard’s claw, a sliver of bone or a tuft, the annual relic of the oryx and its symmetrical foe - the heraldry of realms outside of speech. Yet this fragment at the extremity of sense was seized by speech, kidnapped and borne away, borne aloft, in the story’s radiant monstrance within which was written the bejeweled and astounding discourse of a princess who struck down with her words the sixty philosophers, the rhetors and orators, the abject grammarians assembled to impress her. Against them she turned the three-spoked wheel of her argument: the Speculative, divided into the Intellectual the Natural and the Mathematical; the Practical, divided into the Ethical the Economical and the Political; and the Logical, divided into the Demonstrative, pertaining to philosophers, the Probable, pertaining to rhetors and dialecticians, and the Sophistic, pertaining to sophists. For in her was all philosophy. In lofty and vulnerable rotations the fragment took flight, upheld by angels, translated from palace to tower to the most pure height of the mountain, and there extravagantly given to the tree aflame, beating to engender in unspeakable recessions of blue, the body of God.
Cynthia Sowers was a Senior Lecturer at the Residential College of the University of Michigan until retirement in 2019. Five of her poems were published in the inaugural issue of the Solum Journal (Fall 2020). https://cynthiasowers.rc.lsa.umich.edu/