Thursday, March 27, 2014

Poetry Thursday: Easter Ashes

I have been feeling stuck at Ash Wednesday.  It's been a season of bad news:  cancer come too early, colleagues moving on, sadness coming in waves through the day.

What if I get to Easter and I'm still stuck in my Ash Wednesday sadness?

It won't be the first time:  2005 was one of the more brutal years of my life, and by the following year, I was still not quite done grieving.  I wrote the following poem, which has been providing me some comfort this year, with its reminder of the cyclical nature of grief and joy.

Easter Ashes

Ice caps melt, and polar bears drown.
Alaskan buildings shift on newly soggy ground.
Permafrost turns out not to be so permanent.
We change the climate in ways untried in human history.

Rivers choke with bodies.
People vanish into the hopeless smoke
of failed foreign policies.
It’s never been easier in human history
than it is right now to own a slave.

 Madmen plot ways to own
the power of the mushroom cloud.
To maintain and monitor our stockpile of nuclear
arms takes millions of dollars more
than it took to create them.

How do we celebrate Easter with the taste
of ashes still on our tongues?

So many go to a place where we cannot follow,
bread unbaked, wine souring into vinegar.
But occasionally, the comatose return
to stay with us for one brief respite on the Hospice ward,
snapping fingers to Gospel songs,
accepting a lollipop to lick.

How can we not celebrate Easter with the taste
of ashes still on our tongues?

Newly enfranchised people in South Africa wait in line
for days to vote; the Soviet Union slips
Eastern Europe free of its shackles, and poets
take charge of the government.  Women who survived
the torture of a brutal Latin regime claim
the Presidential Palace.

In industrialized nations, AIDS becomes a chronic condition.
A super nutritious nut paste saves a generation.
Human rights abuses come to light in a distant dungeon,
and we maintain our capacity to be shocked and outraged.

A woman with a scarred history conceives a child
in a womb not thought capable
of creating anything but cysts and fibroids.
Although the placenta rips, the child
continues to grow and flourish.

How can we keep from celebrating Easter, even with the taste
of ashes still on our tongues?


No comments: