Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thinking about Ash Wednesday (with two poems)

 To me Ash Wednesday is a day for serious reflection, a day full of memories. Some of those memories are expressed in the poems below. Both poems are based on my own experiences.

Ash Wednesday at St. William’s School

The immaculate
groomed children
play joyfully on the playground--

but odd

ashes of death
in the sign
of the cross

on innocent

our mortality
the amazing sacrifice.

The marked innocents
forget the strange rite

with wondrous enthusiasm and energy

play like it’s any other day.

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
too close.

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

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