Ash Wednesday


No gifts.
No chocolate.
No parties.
No alleluias.

Just the faithful
gathering at
His command
on an
winter Wednesday.

They pray that
their hardened hearts
be opened
so the ashes
of pain and sin
that are
encased in
be scraped away. 


To Be Rid of a Rival

For this curse,       you need a liter of good grain liquor
and a heartful       of unquenchable hate.
Keep the bottle corked,       and spend a long, dry night
thinking of everything       your rival has
that ought to be yours.
                                     At dawn, roll up your trousers
and set off barefoot       down an unmaintained
side road that dissolves into sand,       then dead-ends
at the river.       Walk upstream until you see
the swift skein of the water       tangle and fray,
marking the snag
                              where the river dumps its garbage.
An almost spokeless       bicycle wheel, an oil drum,
two traffic cones       and the aluminum
bones of a beach chair       have fetched up on this altar
of wet rock and weed.       Wade in as close
as you can to make your own
                                                 ugly offering.
The stream may be icy,       but your stoked-up rage
will keep you warm       as you unstop the bottle
and drink deep,       wishing your rival
gone gone gone gone.       Your curse will gain
strength with every swig.
                                            Picture a heart attack;
picture a jittery       mugger with a gun;
a missed stoplight       and a truck; a sailboat
in a thunderstorm.       When your head starts to swim,
take a final pull,       then throw the bottle hard
onto the trash heap. A trail
                                               of white lightning will
glitter for an instant like shards       of glass across the air.
Wish once more.       If your libation is accepted,
some misfortune will soon       carry your rival away­—
cast off, washed up, worn down—       until nothing is left
but a slight catch       in the river’s throat.