Death and Dust

A poem for Ash Wednesday.

I went to burn the palm fronds
For the Ash Wednesday service,
But when I looked, there weren’t any.

There were no palms last spring,
Nor were there bodies in this building.
Here I am left holding the bag
Of one more thing taken away
By this year’s passion play.

“Shake it off,” I tell myself.
Don’t let it take hold
The one-more-thing of thousands
Of smears imposed
In marks of death and dust
Streaked with lines of tears
By COVID’S cold finger.

And with that push,
I set out again to forsake despair
That I might arrive again at

© Randall Edwards 2021

You Are Dust

This sonnet is for Ash Wednesday. The words usually spoken when the ash is imposed is from the second part of Genesis 3:19 (ESV) which reads,

“By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

Since Adam, every descendent has had to tell their children, “You are dust.” It is such a bitter word. It is so bitter that some cannot imagine bringing children into the world. As we enter into this season in which we prepare for the celebration of the resurrection of the second Adam, we remember that the ashes and dust to which we all are destined, are not the final word.

Many imagine the forty days of Lent to be a season in which one mirrors the forty years that the Israelites sojourned in the wilderness or which one follows Jesus into the Wilderness before his public ministry. In the last stanza, as one is sent out into Lent on Ash Wednesday, I imagine the Lord’s words to Israel through Hosea in which the Lord says to his people, in Hosea 2:14-15,

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

If helpful, you may listen to me read the sonnet via the player below.

“Remember, you are dust,” I say. You bow
Your head toward me standing face to face;
With my trembling thumb, I reach, touch your brow
To impose in ash this symbol of grace.
“You are dust”, words every father has told
Every child whom death and dearth drove down,
Deep into earth, where neither young or old,
Wear gems or gold but wear an ashen crown.
“And to dust you shall return,” I say
Crossing your forehead in imposition;
He sends you forth on this Wednesday
Into the wilderness of His transposition.
Where the hopeless hope, through dust and ash rise
When death’s door is broken, opened to sky.

© Randy Edwards 2017.
This sonnet is for Christ’s church. If it is helpful, please feel free to copy or reprint in church bulletins, read aloud, or repost. I only ask that an attribution be cited to myself (Randall Edwards) and this blog ( Thanks.