From dust and ashes (After a poem by Nelly Sachs)

We travel through cosmic debris.
All the time a war wages – starshower missiles,
misguided asteroids.
The mayhem is our doing.
Harmony – meant to be sung –
ended with us.
Begin again with us.
From ashes we stand,
cupped hands opened to receive,
to re-enter Your orbit.

(Inspired by this translation of Nelly Sachs: https://nellysachsenglish.wordpress.com/2015/09/20/whoever-comes-from-the-earth/)

Counting Words and Days: For Ash Wednesday

Because we’ve loaded even our song with so much music that it’s slowly sinking 
and we’ve decorated our art so much that its features have been eaten away by gold 
and it’s time to say our few words because tomorrow our soul sets sail.
(Giorgos Seferis, “An Old Man on the River Bank”)

I should have let my words be few,
yet I dressed them up, swelling,
until they could not fit in the door.

You know the score:
hardest words are easiest for yelling,
hardest by far to live as true.

What, then, for me, for You?
Your glorious silence is the most compelling.
The grandest truths that I ignore

are found in Your richest store.
Days are short. Life’s noise is telling.
Take ash, take silence. Take You.

Burnt-out Prayer: For Ash Wednesday

King: I cannot come to You however I choose
yet all I am is a bundle
hurriedly put together,
no sack cloth, no ashes,
hair still mussed from slumber,
limbs dragging,
soul flat,
feet not yet expecting to walk…

Can I come to You as a stowaway,
scarcely awake, found among cargo,
hiding like Jonah while the waves ravage?
I bring no grand promise,
no sufficiency,
only the startled eyes of one caught unawares
and the knowledge that, when before kings, I must bow,
and, when cast in oceans, to swim.

Though forty days are hardly enough
for the numbness of limbs to distribute itself
and for fingers to learn, once again, how to pray –
I come to you, King, in dishevelled dismay
and declare my all dross at Your feet.
If my Amen burns faint now
or my wick dwindles, short,
may You be my prayer’s substance,
its fire,
its fuel.