To mark the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday, I would like to introduce you to, and leave you with, the words of Winnipeg poet Sally Ito, from her most recent book Alert to Glory (Turnstone Press, 2011).
My mind is a brick and nothing gets through; the porous sponge
of my youth is desiccated into a slab of stone.
Painting the ashes on such a surface is an idle act
or leap of faith by the bestower;
for the mind while receiving this mortal dust of sacrifice
is wandering through the temple maze of sellers
wondering what to buy, eat in the morrow.
Well, there’ll be no sugar, caffeine, or even meat.
The beans will need soaking, and the fish bought fresh.
The sermon is about a recalcitrant camel
made to suckle its mutant offspring,
an oversized albino calf whose onerous birth caused the mother’s
heart to harden, becoming indifferent. My mind is that heart.
The shepherds hire musicians, sing and rub the poor mother’s neck,
and finally, teardrops glisten in that old naga’s eyes and she is made
to look on her child as if it were her own for the very first time.
The brick now sodden with tears
will keep in the moisture longer than you think,
and when through the doors of the church I slip into the world
the ash will be in my like salt in the sea.