And Still You Said No

by Tom Barlow

Lent rolls around again and I only know it has arrived 
by the ash cross on the intern's forehead and the lack of 
doughnuts in the break room and I can't imagine 

forty days in the desert with heat like a hammer pealing out 
as it strikes dust for breakfast, ash for lunch, dirt for dinner.
And all the while Old Scratch is offering you Mister or  

Miss Universe for the best night of your life and your own 
hedge fund and a killer deal on a rent-controlled on the 
Upper East Side and a guarantee of three poems in "Poetry" 

and five percent body fat and a hairline that will never recede 
and the new Tesla, zero to sixty in two-point-three. 
Ten wins in a row on Jeopardy and the looks of 

Denzel Washington, the life span of Betty White. 
Le Bernardin will take only one reservation for dinner 
on New Year's Eve and it is yours for the asking 

and Sully has agreed to pilot your private plane to your 
modest home on St. Kitts and one of your daughters is 
head surgeon at Mt. Sinai, the other is J.K. Rowling 

and you will be told the date of your death beforehand 
so you will have plenty of time to repent.

But still you said no, no thank you, and therefore, Lent.

Two millennia later, ten thousand wealth managers wipe the 
ash from their foreheads and thank God you weren't their client. 

Tom Barlow is an Ohio author of poetry, short stories and novels. His work has appeared in journals and anthologies including PlainSongs, Ekphrastic Review, Voicemail Poetry, Hobart, Tenemos, Redivider, Aji, The New York Quarterly, The Modern Poetry Quarterly, and many more. See more at

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