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Ash Wednesday

Julia Ross

When the pastor

would smear my forehead

with ashes & remind me

I was from dust & to dust

would return, in his voice

a note of apology, like

a pediatrician delivering

grave prognoses, it felt

so congruous. Of course

we’d been dying all year

eating bananas in the shadow

of the cross, quartered donuts

always the wrong shoes

same urn of precisely weak

coffee, my name

the church directory software

could not accommodate

because I was married but not

a Mrs., always the mission project

never the missionary & the deacons

kept sending me home

with picked-over donut quarters

which were hard to balance

on the handlebars of my bike

but I embodied appreciation, practice

for when in six short weeks

we would wear our personal best

& shout He is Risen

my gut an empty tomb

in an empty room

& maybe we'd hear about how

it was the women who first

believed, except it was also

the women who left before

that part of the sermon

to make the coffee & prepare

the donuts, halved for this

momentous day. But walking

out into the dark on a cold

Wednesday, bangs matted

to my forehead, that at least

had felt close to truth.

Julia (she/her) is a poet and educator living in Austin, TX. She writes about parenthood, agnosticism, art & music, and the sociopolitical hellscape known as Texas. Her work was recently published in The New Verse News.
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