Pastor on Ash Wednesday

I hold a bowl of burnt stems
from last years’ palms
bulked up by newspaper,
because news is so often ashworthy.

I say, “you are forgiven.”

I don’t have much personal experience
with mortality, except for the crying –
but I have been forgiven
so many, many times.

The person in front of me
uses their own finger
to make a cross on forehead
or the back of the other hand
or just breathe deeply
and take the bowl and turn to say,

“you are forgiven”
to the next in line,
while I find my way to the end.

And so it goes, each forgiven
each forgiving, each choosing
where the ashes belong,
until it comes to me,
and I am so desperately glad
to hear those familiar words –
and mark myself,

choosing whether this year
was more sinful in the head,
or in my lifting up
or withholding my hand.

Sometimes, given I’m the pastor,

I make the dusty cross
across my lips.

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1 Response to Pastor on Ash Wednesday

  1. This is a moving piece. Thank you.

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