A Non-Catholic Observes Ash Wednesday
Day one in the year without loving,
and my lenten body wants a new home:
a better reason than doubt for self-drought
to ward my cheeks against February.
My lenten body wants a new home
for desire. I wear a mask marked from coal
to reckon against February's
little-month complex. Inventing new words
for desire, I wear a kohl-marked mask,
though I can hardly breathe with these queer nerves,
little moth complexes who invent words
like celibation, flagella-ntium.
I still can't breathe. When my nerves
pulse in spirals like beached anemone,
I don't celebrate the flagellant's
tired abstraction. Instead, I prune whip tips,
lower and lower in my stomach until
I tire of abstraction. I tire of tips
from strangers about the nature of sin
Lower and lower I go until
only the fronds of my sea-slug heart are
visible to strangers. Knowing what I do, it's
day two in the year without loving.