ash wednesdayI have a small and secret desire, well-hid.
Secret from whom, you ask?
Secret from me, I suspect,
Or maybe I am a suspect, secretly,
Quietly desiring.

This is the week to bring a secret forth
Not by telling, no “big reveal”
But quietly, like the secret itself
Into the ashes of Wednesday morning.

Ashes of palms once waved aloft with lauds
Thrown beneath humility’s hooves
Shat upon by the donkey, perhaps
As I shall soon be shouting “Crucify!”
Royalty forgotten.

Yet in these very ashes, after burning,
Burning as if great bellows breathe
Upon a fire consuming my heart
In these very ashes I live and breathe,
Or hope I might.

My secret will yet stay the Lenten while
All sooty, besmudged, well-marked
But no less secret for all of that
Until it be nailed to wood, and hung.
Then blood will flow.

The way I cognize this is quite obliquely
A slant of mental light that burns
Itself, not like that fire but like
A cold and hard commitment made.
I pray that I keep it…

…in order to lose it. 

Books mentioned in this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore


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