The Ashes on a Wednesday

It is a rite of memory, this.

Like steps on journey you know
well, the feet steady on the earth
were the ashes come.

You rush to the temple
of that desiring, the people
rushing as well to take in all the ashes
all the ashes can bring to dampen
which joy you have kept all these years
of not having gone through
the same, by force of habit
or by force of running away
from the mirage of faith
going awry sometimes
as you, exile of the earth
exile of a nation
exile of yourself
divine the doors to salvation
in mornings when life is dire
and the straits are dire as well.

But you learn to pray,
utter the silences the praying
heart knows. You hope for your soul
getting some kind of a quick relief
as you summon the Hebrew you know
to call out to the lord of your lost years.

The tests do come in this exile
you want to turn back
and start from where you ended
like the so be it in the beginning
but cannot start to do so.

You remember to bow
your head in benediction
as if all days come to an end
and there you are, ready
but not prepared to leave it all,
this life more so
because you have just begun
to feel the wind on your face,
fierce and bitter and refreshing as well.

Even if the news on the national public radio
makes you lose your appetite for coffee
to perk up your day:
another writer in GenSan is dead,
the first in this year of the color red
when blessings are for real.

You queue up for the burned
fronds the priest has kept from last year's
entry to Jerusalem, the hosannahs
ringing still on the immaculate walls,
cleaned for this lent of fasting
and sacrifice, or so the deacon tells.

You do not hear what the habited
of God said. The voices come from
some other places you do not know.

You say Amen.

You go away.

Next year's is a memory
of what is yet to come.

A Solver Agcaoili
UH Manoa, Feb 22/07

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