We travel through cosmic debris.
All the time a war wages – starshower missiles,
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/)
Fire is the colour of the eastbound sun
lighting the face of the dusty sky.
Ash is the colour of this roadwork black,
of tarmac where the plane lost flight.
Red is the colour of the traffic light,
gold the colour in the new day’s eye,
and ash to ash is this road we drive;
no dust be lost today.
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.
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,
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,
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,
Ash marks the face where the image was lost; dust marks the skin once shaped from it. Ash marks the doors to these bodies of dirt; grace marks the scars skinned upon it. Death marks the flesh once inspired by Life; Life pays the cost to respire it. Steps mark the knees bent upon them in prayer; hope marks the soul there repining.