Martin Jack

Ash Wednesday Revisited

Because I do not hope to turn

- T.S. Eliot, ‘Ash Wednesday’


i


Come, turn again

to the blessed voice


while twisting

on the vacant stairs.


The bowl is full of ashes

honey sweet for the transitory hour


that strikes as a priest whispers

his first confession on the air


his conscience knee-skinned,

kneeling on hard marble floor.


After mourning God answers

the dry bones with life-


giving wind that blows where

it will in the quiet deserted lots


of the mind, redeemed

at the edge of the garden.


Ash marks the spot on the brow

where God claims his people.


On their face ashen crosses

unveil new creations


before the groaning rocks

who cannot pray


but bend their wills only

to God’s reign, awaiting


his mysterious timing

for the redemption of flesh.



Martin Jack © 2010

ii


All our Lent Wednesdays

spent breathless in the pews


quicken to Easter birth,

the memory of sins shed


like skin in the shadow

of the cross, until finally spent


purged with the fasting

of trinkets for a time


forgetting ourselves in the light,

that swallows our darkness


and spits it out of mind

into the sea.


This is preparation,

smoothing what we thought


was beyond repair

as the blood beckons us


to redeem the dream

of holiness where trees flower


and dress themselves

in a white gown,


where we hope to turn

again to the Word within


and without, leaving the lost

heart at the cemetery gates


as we throw the ash

over our shoulders.


iii


Within, we listen to the Comforter

teaching us to be a cathedral


made of the supernatural fruit

of the vineyard.


Without we sing hymns

that rise upwards


carrying sacrificial music

out of our scattered voices


to the beating chamber

of God’s father heart.


There the Word rests,

whistling amidst the noise of men


praying for those who oppose

until this ash-tinted day


becomes theirs,

and the whole world turns


from adultery to sowing

the seeds of grace;


and smokes the blasphemous

names on its swollen belly


in the Valley of Slaughter ,

glad to be united


with the Eminence

as its prayers for mercy


shake eternal whispers

from the dust.



Martin Jack © 2010