Lent births herself this year, no midwife braving
the cold to come to her and coax her out
with strong sure hands
into a thankless world.
Lent crackles like a sheet of ice this year
creaking underfoot her timeless chant
remember the sudden plunge the icy fist that grasps the lungs
to beings sick to death of that same song
and bodies wrung bare
from holding themselves at arm’s length for so long.
One fist opens to expose the ash
she’ll paint upon your brow
if you’ll let her.
In a year bereft of touch
you may shiver as her fingertips brush flesh
and startle at their warmth.
you’ve let yourself be marked by dust
Lent’s other fist will open for you
gentle as spring’s first petals.
This palm glows with embers
that flicker out Lent’s second song:
This too remember
o frail Dust — you’re born from Splendor
and Splendor thrums within you even now.
Lent births herself this year
into a world already stripped bare
and beckons to the embers in her palm.
Come. This year
they need only the faintest breath to stir them.
This poem was written by Avery Arden. If you use it in a service, credit them and link to this site.
About this poem:
I wrote this before the sun rose this Ash Wednesday morning, my sleeping wife’s warm limbs embracing me, her breathing a steady rhythm at my back. Be gentle to yourselves and to others this season, beloved.
Many souls are already weary in this time of pandemic, and Lent is the last thing they feel like embracing. But Lent is not suffering for suffering’s sake, or increasing our burdens as some kind of challenge for ourselves. Lent is for acknowledging what suffering already is present in the world, and bearing it together; Lent is an intentional remembering of what binds us, all of us, and nourishing those ties.
Lent is stepping into solidarity – alongside Jesus on his journey to crucifixion – with the tortured and discarded of the world.
Lent may just be what our tattered spirits and weary bones need right now.
The concept of splendor comes from Sister Macrina Wiederkehr, who writes in A Tree Full of Angels: