Overcast on Ash Wednesday

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Bare branches mere bones of

sorrow etching crosses black and

bleak against a heaven that has

forgotten how to smile.


Sky knits a seamless shroud;

the air is thick and still with

heaven’s grief for all the sadness of a

world of stitches dropped and patterns

gone awry; silence in my sagging pines.


Has God forgotten us? misplaced his

once delight in wind that tiptoes

through my chimes? in mischievous

white clouds that spill their joy into my trees?


My only answer is a Presence

brooding over all the tatters of this

wilted earth, pulling me to Silence

that has held within its womb

all that is, from dawn of time until this

solemn Day of Ash; bare-branched

crosses stretching high into the sky;

smudge of ashes burning on my brow;

enough; the Presence tender holds my

dust, rocks me in the empty trees.

10 thoughts on “Overcast on Ash Wednesday

  1. Thank you for your tender thoughts on this Ash Wednesday. Heavy day of presence and peace. You continue to be a blessing. Prayers continue.

  2. Not sure just why, but this Lenten Season is always so meaningful to me—maybe because it draws us more closely into the mystery of Silent Presence in the midst of all the questions and difficulties in our lives.

  3. “Has God forgotten us?” That this question sits in the center of this beautiful poem tells us that this question sits in the center of most of us, or, at least for me. It’s hard not to think that God is taking a long winter’s nap, particularly in the days of refugees, mass killings, illness, betrayal . . . like the days of the Old and New Testaments. That seamless shroud has been around for a while and makes me wonder sometimes if the Presence is, in fact, the seamless shroud. I’m jealous of your ability to find that Presence brooding over the wilting earth, but grateful that you are always willing to believe in it for me.

    While on a long walk today I saw the bare branches and mere bones of sorrow — not the crosses stretching high into the sky. Perhaps I will tomorrow.

    I was reminded of the opening lines of the short story “Inexorable Progress” by Mary Hood:

    “There’s not much difference between a bare tree and a dead tree in winter. Only when the others begin to leaf out the next spring and one is left behind in the general green onrush can the eye tell. By then it is too late for remedy.”

    Perhaps it won’t be too late.

    Thank you for another Ash Wednesday poem to add to my collection.

  4. I’ve known you longer than anyone who reads these poems. I’ve always admired your intellect (especially your paper on “the Greek view of man” — private joke) and the gentle passion of your heart. When you were in the parish you immediately became one of my three favorite preachers (a three way tie, each for different reasons). As you know, I’m very fussy about sermons. Yours were always so carefully thought out, so visibly biblical, and so precisely worded. There was even the touch of the poet in them, though they were not nor were they meant to be poems. Now, quite suddenly, you emerge as a writer of beautiful and powerful poems, a gift beyond the many with which I was familiar. Where did it come from? From God, of course, but to say that is not to explain it. I am very thankful to God for giving you this gift and to you for passing it on to us.

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