Ash Thursday

Ours was a sadness that had to wait,
We could not see the calendar, but we could feel the days,
Smearing ash across the broad bone of our foreheads.
How many shadows did not belong to someone?
They seemed beyond counting, a refugee darkness,
So close no tear could drip between them,
And still we wept like cows lowing.
We cannot recall the first grief that made our heads bow,
We cannot recall the dates of their deaths,
What each blurred face did for a living, who they loved,
The last madness that jerked in their heads before the peace,
The ancestral stories they bore like smoking coals.
Ours was a sadness that had to wait,
And it died in that waiting, and, numb as we were,
We mourned that late sadness too.

(First published in slightly different form in Lothlorien Poetry Journal, June 25, 2022 – thanks to Editor Marcus Strider Jones.)

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