ASH WEDNESDAY

A POEM BY PHILIP QUIRKE



Time presses humus to turf, turf to coal,

and coal to diamonds.

The gift of galaxies: where the elements are forged;

our sun, our earth formed from the star dust.

Out of the earth, its dust and clay, we emerged.

Remember that you are dust, and to dust return’

is our dispensation from the beginning.

And our return will be to God’s earth and cosmos,

to be held in God’s embrace. We are dust,

but dust divine, who pray, fast, give charity,

and in God’s time we will be pressed

into indestructible diamonds.

Hearth-warmth and spark-glint linger

in the fire pit where last year’s palms

are burned for this year’s ashes

worn as a cruciform print-mark,

a reminder of the end to inspire a beginning.

So. A shuffle in hope to altar rails.

Ashes pressed to foreheads of believers

allured by the mantra and the mystery:

‘remember Man, that you are dust

and into dust you shall return’.