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Black, gritty, sooty signs
Painted on the foreheads
Of humanity parading about.
My thumb would be black
For several days following
The signing of so many foreheads,
The dark soot engrained
Within my right thumb print.

Ash Wednesday is a magnet
That draws people, compels people
into the dark oak pews 
of equally darkened church naves;
Pews filled, spewing with humanity,
Seeking what? What are they seeking?
What compels them to be there?
To be reminded of their dusty origins?
The dust from which they were born,
Only for their bones to crumble 
Into the dust in which they will buried?

Do they come to be reminded
Of their brokenness?
The product of their wretchedness
Inflicted upon others, or
Their own lives shattered into pieces
By  other unfeeling wretches?
Do they come to hear the words,
“Turn away from sin
And be faithful to the Gospel,
Ring for the next forty days in their ears?

All these years of blackened thumbs,
The carbon of this dark, sooty ash 
has been absorbed Into my blood stream, 
Into my cells, and into my soul. 
Yes, I know what this day reveals for me,
As I sign my wife and my son,
And our pet dog whose curiosity
Got her signed and unleashed
A sortie of sneezes and snorts.

The carbon on my forehead,
Is the same carbon of my body,
Which is in solidarity and sameness
With the carbon of my wife, son, and dog,
Roses and dandelions,
Shrubs and thistles,
Earth worms, and wood ticks,
Palm trees and pine trees,
Snakes and lizards,
Sharks and bullheads,
Lions and cattle,
Water, air, stone, and earth.

The ashes are all about our oneing,
All humanity, animal, nature
One and the same, derived
From the one and the same carbon
Breathed upon the universe
By the one, yet three, deity
Over five billion years ago,
When divine incarnated itself
Into carbon, the same black,
Gritty, sooty carbon on my forehead.

(c) Robert Charles Wagner. All rights reserved.

Copyright © Robert Wagner