Thursday, February 19, 2015
Ash Wednesday Poem for My Mother
This is a poem I wrote some years ago, reflecting on the last year of my Mother's life. I think of her every Ash Wednesday.
The Last Ash Wednesday (February 2003)
After teaching my classes,
I drive over to Kevin’s house
Where Mom now lives after moving from Euclid
Our family home for fifty-one years.
It’s getting harder for her to go out,
So I come to her house,
Burn last year’s palm fronds in the ash tray
And anoint her forehead with the Sign of the Cross.
I find myself unable to utter the ancient words,
“Remember, Woman, from dust thou art,
And unto dust thou shallt return.”
The words are too painful, too real,
The abiding dust
Then Mom anoints my own forehead,
Again leaving the words unspoken:
No one can ever know . . . .
After the little ceremony,
We both laugh, and Mom says,
“Let’s drink a beer!”
“Not on Ash Wednesday,” I tease.
“The hell with that!” she retorts.
“I’m old enough now to be above the rules!”
We both laugh, and I pop open two beers.
We drink to Mardi Gras and to Lent,
And to the ashes on our foreheads.
[Bob Coughlin, February 21, 2007, Ash Wednesday]