10.4 (Summer 2006)
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Lauren K. AlleyneListen


Ash Wednesday

This is where the journey begins: at the end
of a thumb blackened: imprinted: set apart:
sacrificial: hairshirted: mea culpa & I'm sorry,
Lord, so sorry: surrender: reconciliation: a pact:
the body reviled: the body denied: the body
transformed to holy hunger: the temple
sealed for a necessary restoration: gutted:
these the stripes: this the desert: the constant
question/confession: despair: this is where
the journey begins: on the knees: supplicant:
eyes desperately shut: give me a sign:
& is this even prayer: I mourn a simpler faith:
the mustard seed: the certainty of ashes: mass
the sun piercing the window: its stained glass


Fear and Trembling

After Kierkegaard

And there are many ways to come undone
—some more exquisite than others. Ask Eve,
she will tell you apple-lust unwrapped her
left her cold and with a word for shiver.
Lot's wife is witness that a backward glance
is enough—nostalgia pillared her. But,
I imagine the somewhat greater deeds:
picture the Red Sea unstitched like a braid;
the lion's den, its many hungry mouths;
Isaac's bewildered screams: why, daddy, why?
And what terrible choice to peel back doubt
like a bandage, without question or lack
to say Here am I, to renounce relief:
step in, seize the knife, and to know belief.



It is the simple, the small, kindly acts
that show us: Veronica's thoughtful cloth,
its imprint of sweat, blood & silent thanks;
Simon of Cyrene's grudging aid, his wrath
resigned to the need of a criminal;
A common thief's dying, ready defense;
John's empathic hand, slipped into the small
of Mary's back as she stands stoic, tense
before the hoisted body of her son.

We did not recognize you for our God
—our first fault. But even worse was the one
which with ease nailed an innocent to wood.

I kneel in surrender to your mystery;
I kiss your pain, your bleeding, human knee.


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