Ash Wednesday

A Poem By Sarah Bethany // 3/3/2009

Written in a church in Rome, 2/08.

She holds the baby,
tender, white, and rosy,
duckling-headed.
He doesn't know yet the slaughtering.
Palm branches that we held last year
in jubiliant hands trying
to praise our Lord
have crumbed into
ashes, remember, oh, man
is rubbed an incriminating
mark with a thumb on our
brow, that thou art dust
and to dust thou shall
return, for thou art
the Cain. We try
to love. And why
that our failed praise, our
betrayal, our lack of substance, should
turn the mark?
That we are in mourning
a people in mourning
Because our love dusted.
The father's eyes
are sad as he looks
at us, but holds
his son. He will
kill the fatted calf.
It hangs before
us.
The palm fell apart
in my hand.
What he says to
us is in his silence -
in the father's arms
in the hang of his
head. We are the
marked ones,
we the Cains, we
the loved ones. The lightning
struck his forehead -
the thumb of the priest presses
ours - "and because of this mark,
no one shall touch you."

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(In church I was looking at a piercing picture of Mary holding a fuzzy-headed Jesus, and an equal touching painting of the father holding the prodigal son wrapped in his arms. The father's gaze is right at the audience. And the crucifix, of course. And it all struck me as irony - unfortunately, I was writing in church as the Italian service went on - that the mark on Cain's forehead was a mark of a sinful but protected man, and the mark of Christians on Ash Wednesday - the cross on the brow - is made from the ashes of the palms we used for praise on Palm Sunday the year before. It's sort of a shameful revelation, the part you play in the crowd that said, "Hosannah in the highest!" and the next day said, "Crucify Him.")

Comments

Oh Sarah! I love this! It is

Oh Sarah! I love this! It is so very beautiful. I loved the way you tied everything in. And the point you made about us holding the palms, and then them turning into ashes to mark our foreheads...it was just awesome. Very powerful. :)

Brianna | Tue, 03/03/2009

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"We have been created for greater things. Why stoop down to things that will spoil the beauty of our hearts?" ~Mother Theresa

*is happy*

Wow! :D Thanks, Brianna!!!!

Sarah Bethany | Tue, 03/03/2009

Wow. This is awesome, I love

Wow.
This is awesome, I love it.
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"Elves and Dragons! Cabbages and potatoes are better for me and you. Don't go getting mixed up in the business of your betters, or you'll land in trouble too big for you." — Hamfast Gamgee (the Gaffer)

Clare Marie | Wed, 03/04/2009

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"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

So well written! I really

So well written! I really loved this.

This comment was made by Erin!

"Never, never give up. Unless you get really tired." -Ellen Degenres

Erin | Fri, 03/06/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

oh my gosh.....I love

Sarah! This is absoluetly gorgeous....it captures so much in such beautiful forms and terms. Wow. Definitely one of my favs..... :D

Mairead | Mon, 08/23/2010

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"Sweet is the love that never knew a wound, but deeper that which died and rose again." - Mother Mary Francis

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