Ashes (A Poem)

Ashes (A Poem) February 28, 2020

Ashes stick around forever;
Whenever I use them to mark
The not-quite-churched,
I get them smeared on my hands

And every door handle,
And everything in my pocket,
And a little bit of bathroom wall,
And even the pavement where I drip.

I hate it when Ash Wednesday says
Dumb things about death
Like “contemplate your mortality” —
Do I use the lotus position for that?

What I know about death is it’s messy;
The papers stay in boxes
Until someone has processed them,
Unless there’s a fire or the swamp swallows it.

I wish it could be like Luke Skywalker
Watching the sunset on his perfect little island;
You don’t even see his skin rot.
Poof! And the empty robe glides into space.

I don’t know when I’ll die;
But I’ve lost 30 pounds in two months;
Will my body just keep dropping ashes
Like a cigar until only dust is left?

I feel great; so do many patients at the end of life;
You can let things fall now;
Your pants are so much looser;
The fire inside reduces what matters.

What if all I’ve ever been is ashes
And my death has always been life?
What if my ashes remember
The ashes they were before me?

Is the body of Christ a campfire
That has never stopped recycling saints
Who ebb and flow as the Spirit
Breathes across it?

Didn’t we all start in a supernova anyway?
Or were there ashes before that?
What if the Big Bang is God’s cosmic sand painting
Of a phoenix that always was?

Now don’t be mad if time is only one moment
And our ashes are books that keep rereading each other
Through their grandmothers’ eyes;
Jesus promised the thief today, not after his second coming.

I’ve walked the same path
In the woods so many times
Though I always roll my eyes
When people say, “It’s all connected.”

Once I had a fire the night before Easter
With a group of sons licking their fathers’ wounds
And they cried with me; there were hugs;
We took communion and made sacred vows.

And I thought surely this is the second coming,
But the fire was gone at daybreak,
So I went back to gather the ashes
Into a plastic bag that I lost.

Ashes cannot be wasted;
They’re filled with new life;
If we burn down the last jungle,
We will become the next one.

What will resurrection be?
Will we be burning bushes
That glow but no longer
Waste away?

I will be okay
Because no matter where I’m scattered,
God will not let me dissolve;
His ashes carry my fingerprints.

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