Season of Lent, Ash Wednesday

chris liu

My days lengthen toward a blink of light
at the rim of shadows, the desert world

sucking all moisture from my tongue,
a wafer dry as bone, as prayer of

anything but contrition, remorse
collapsing knees, weighing down

my head, eyes focused on the dust
and ashes of tomorrow and tomorrow . . .

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy.

I am not worthy, having yoked and fettered
the homeless hungry to icy sidewalk nights,

the high noon intersection of lunchtime
traffic, my fingers clinched on

the steering wheel, the wicked word
I reserve for those who dare to disturb

my idling solace. I do not deserve mercy,
not the child stepping out from the aisle

of penitents moving in line to receive
on their brow the sign of Christ’s cross,

ashes mixed with what? Jesus’s spittle,
paste of dust, salve for blind eyes?

The young girl reaches down to hug me.
Shadows lift a little more.

Marcus Dali Col