Marked by Ashes

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
     halfway back to committees and memos,
     halfway back to calls and appointments,
     halfway on to next Sunday,
     halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
     half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
   but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
     we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
       of failed hope and broken promises,
       of forgotten children and frightened women,
     we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
     we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
   some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
   anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
   You Easter parade of newness.
   Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
     Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
     Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
   Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
     mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

Walter Brueggemann (b. 1933)
Taken from his Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 27-28.

Desert Prayer

Jan Richardson- Painted Prayerbook.com

I am not asking you
to take this wilderness from me,
to remove this place of starkness
where I come to know
the wildness within me,
where I learn to call the names
of the ravenous beasts
that pace inside me,
to finger the brambles
that snake through my veins,
to taste the thirst
that tugs at my tongue.

But send me
tough angels,
sweet wine,
strong bread:
just enough.

American Christmas Card 2004

I met a man in Nigeria years ago,
an Ibo,
who said he had three hundred relatives
he knew by name.

His wife had just had a baby.
They were going to take it 
on foot
to be welcomed and marveled at
by as many of those relatives
as they could find,
even though
there was a war going on.
Wouldn’t you love to have been
such a famous baby?

I wish I could wave a magic wand
this Christmas,
and give every desperately lonesome
and hungry and lost American
man, woman, or child
the love and comfort and support
of an extended family.

Just two people and a babe in the manger,
given a heartless Government, 
is no survival scheme.

Kurt Vonnegut 

Editing Job

Carl Dennis

I'd cut the prologue, where God agrees 
To let his opponent, Satan, 
Torment our hero merely to prove 
What omniscience must know already: 
That Job's devotion isn't dependent 
On his prosperity. And how foolish of God 
If he supposes that Satan, once proven wrong, 
Will agree to forego his spite against creation 
For even a minute.

I'd keep the part where Job disdains 
His friends' assumption that somehow 
He must be to blame for his suffering, 
And the part where he makes a moving appeal 
To God for an explanation. 
I'd drop God's irrelevant, angry tirade 
About might and majesty versus weakness.

The issue is justice. Is our hero 
Impertinent for expecting his god 
To practice justice as well as preach it, 
For assuming the definition of justice 
That holds on earth holds as well above? 
Abraham isn't reproved in Genesis 
For asking, when God decides to burn Sodom, 
If it's fair to lump the good with the wicked.

Let Job be allowed to complain 
About his treatment as long as he wants to, 
For months, for decades,
And in this way secure his place forever 
In the hearts of all who believe 
That suffering shouldn't be silent, 
That grievances ought to be aired completely, 
Whether heard or not.

As for the end, if it's meant to suggest 
That patience will be rewarded, I'd cut it too. 
Or else I suggest at least adding a passage 
Where God, after replenishing Job's possessions, 
Comes to the tent where the man sits grieving 
To ask his pardon. How foolish of majesty 
To have assumed that Job's new family, 
New wife and children and servants, 
Would be an ample substitute for the old.

I Cry

Tupac Shakur

Sometimes when I'm alone
I Cry, 
Cause I am on my own.
The tears I cry are bitter and warm.
They flow with life but take no form
I Cry because my heart is torn.
I find it difficult to carry on. 
If I had an ear to confide in, 
I would cry among my treasured friend, 
but who do you know that stops that long, 
to help another carry on.
The world moves fast and it would rather pass by.
Then to stop and see what makes one cry, 
so painful and sad. 
And sometimes...
I Cry 
and no one cares about why. 

A Plankless Job

With this plank
I only see drones
not doves.

With this plank
I only see darkness
instead of light.

With this plank
I only see 
what I want to see.

And now
You want
to remove it.

Just so I can
see things 
the way You do.

Introduction to Poetry

Billy Collins

I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light 
like a color slide

or press an ear against its hive.

I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,

or walk inside the poem's room
and feel the walls for a light switch.

I want them to water ski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author's name on the shore.

But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.

They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.