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Wednesday, February 26, 2020


by Jill Crainshaw

Photograph by Mark Fuller: "dust thou art, and unto dust thou shall return."

what prayer dare we utter when
unspeakable horrors silence
songs of children paralyze
tongues of poets we stumble over
all that remains—unspoken—

perhaps some ancient tree will
whisper wisdom into this unending
night—wilderness people do not
recognize its edenic lyric we
are dust to dust we will return we

are all dust and we are all creating
this mad mad world imposing
premature imprints of mortality on
unblemished foreheads of children
turned to ash in our clenching hands

someone save us from this fickle
foolishness why do we sacrifice innocent
blood to the thirsty ungroundedness of
our being we flinch gritty truth marks
us we are exiles in our own homes

holding our breath as tongues of fire
consume what really matters—save us
open our mouths to exhale the ashy
smell of repentance make our bones
remember we are dust to dust we will return—

Jill Crainshaw is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a liturgical theology professor at Wake Forest University School of Divinity in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.