My trembling finger once marked a woman
in a year I knew would end the ritual
of her annual ash.
‘Remember you are dust…”
I faltered on the rest.
Do doctors feel so transgressive
when they are forced to break
the polite illusion of immortality?
We all know it’s not true.
Death haunts our every move.
But to say it is to invoke a power
that explodes us, rending, rendering
us mere motes, mere mortals,
merely, awfully human.
She did not quail. She bore with dignity
her sentence. And I went on to mark
my son, my daughter, my wife.
Damn my quailing thumb of ash!
Smudge every living thing with truth!
Until we yield
scattered to a life unknown.