Ash Wednesday

Take dust and dip the finger in its pool.
Take ash and wipe the forehead clean of guise.
Mark countenance, that earthly vestibule.
Claim death upon the entrance; then, arise.

Arise, anointed, freed from world’s pretense
that we may bind the tides of hard goodbyes
and fix, with words of good well-reasoned sense,
and deny what twists and burns, what pierces sides.

When grief draws founts of words—all kind, bring ash;
Where gestures flame and sputter, pile the dust;
Hold the bodies of each other through billows’ crash;
Be mortal in the face of death’s great Must.

Touch ash and tears and sin and pain that gives
the place our feints may die; for there, Christ lives.