Ash Wednesday

by Ariana D. Den Bleyker

in the gray weight of its hours extends 
within the quiet a grittiness—
ashes made from last year’s palm branches,
forming a rough & imperfect symbol 
upon our foreheads.

Let me receive this cross of ash 
upon my brow until the forests of my body burn 
& I make late repentance of the loss
while the trees of God clap their hands, 
the thick smoke soot of palm deepening the peace 
of a hand extended within the quiet.

You are dust and to dust you shall return—

a beginning & a consummation for all the days I’ve felt like dust,
like dirt, scattered or swept away by the smallest breath.

Cover me with ashes, bring me to my knees, so that in my weakness
I see Your strength, the reflection of Your eyes in my brokenness.

Scorched & marked, I’ve made it through the burning, 
asked for blessing in the shame & sorrow, 
the oily smear of ash bearing my sin, 
my need for grace echoing how well I know it.

I want to gather the ash from my face & raise my hands—

an offering
an apology

Remember you are dust.

& so I am 
& so I lift my head 

to meet those words, pardoned,
standing in their forgiveness, in the grace of being named.

& in my frailty, I am known.

Ariana D. Den Bleyker is a Pittsburgh native currently residing in New York’s Hudson Valley where she is a wife and mother of two. When she’s not writing, she’s spending time with her family and every once in a while sleeps. She is the author of three collections and twenty chapbooks, among others. She is the founder and publisher of ELJ Editions, Ltd., a 501(c)3 literary nonprofit. She hopes you’ll fall in love with her words.

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