Unwinged and smeared with nature we
Pull the cloth of Lent around our bones,
And consign our flesh to wait:
This is the season of orphans and the stripped,
Season of consequences, season of Abraham,
Day in, day out leading Isaac up,
Hand in hand, the mountainside, up to
The altar. Every day, the same journey,
Every day the same instruction.
God, lay me simple down,
And open me alive.
I’ll drip down your arms,
Bright and warm as sin you’ve washed your hands in
So angels say they saw only a butcher or a surgeon
Red to the elbows in the stink of his work.
This is the physical world. This is the place of seasons,
The rounding, fist-sized darkness
Into which everything we understand of light
Enters, gathers, breaks forth, speaks love, asks for love
Curses, weeps blood, dies, returns to darkness.
This is the season of consent, of accusation.
I rest my back against the wooden pew; I lay my head
Down on my arms, crossed at the wrists on the wooden pew;
I stand and walk the floor of wooden squares, toward the wooden altar;
I kneel on the wooden rail, in the building held up
By the wooden pillars, roofed on planks of creaking wood;
I raise my forehead toward the mark—ashes of palm and of wood. We
Have covered the crosses for the season:
We shall not be called outward toward other crosses these 40 days.
Who have I laid across my own altars?
What rises from the burning chokes the ground it rises from.
We eat. We are washed as though
We were travelers through a dry land
And must protect our feet from grinding against the roads on which we walk—
From the clinging dirt grinding the skin of our feet:
All water crosses here—bowls, pitchers, towels, the devout
More naked in this place, with their feet uncovered and held
Than in any dream or any room into which they go unclothed.
All water crosses here where we are washed,
In abundance like the depths, streams out of the rocks,
Streams you have dreamed paving the floor of a rough cell
Where you lay yourself down in the moving water and
This is prayer.
We wash our feet to the bones, wade out
With the name of the Lord scrubbed into the soles:
A promise unwashable as Jephthah’s
“I will kill the first thing across my threshold
If I have victory.” Do this. The hour washes toward us. In preparation
We wash our own hands in Pilate’s bowl
As water wears away stones.
With the day no longer vigil
And the sky no longer confusion—
He is certain flesh, certain in the tomb—
We busy our hands with flower knives,
With flowers enough to wake the dead,
With the churching of flowers.
We slash the stems to make them drink,
Stand them one against another, vein-deep
In whatever false earth holds them up to us,
Unfallen petals open to the breaking dawn,
The incense and the spices of the buried flesh.
Lilies splayed like hands or stars, and baby’s breath,
Carnations on their brittle stems,
All bloom and die and bloom for us—
We’ve gathered them to mark the gift we took the day before.
Create in me a heart unfurling and as delicate as petals.
Create in me a green heart, startling and startled as the first leaves.
This is the bearable day
Between flesh and intention.
Our hands have turned from death to decoration.
This is the day we are given to preparation,
We are cutting the dead stock away from the branch
That it will sprout again, that its tender shoots will not cease
Though its root may grow old in the earth,
So will I fall away, so will I die, so will I hand back the gift again,
Again, again, so will I die down to my human root. So will
The season turn again to ash and altars.
What blossoms from the root consumes the ground it blossoms from.