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On the First Day

(x = space)



On the First Day


Ash Wednesday

Let’s have ash

Upon our foreheads

Crosses that will smudge

And that’s all right


The day into

The evening

For the season


We say it’s for remembrance

Of death

And our mortality

But our foreheads are warm

There’s temperature beneath

And all the little crosses

Bearing small,


And living




Not bad for evangelism

Contraindicated for a show

Rather a story of

Black, loving humility


C L Couch



Photo by Taylor Flowe on Unsplash



(x = space)




(11 September 2020)


Today is bright with gray

In my part

A good, sad color for remembering

Thousands lost, then hundreds

More in first-responding

And millions to the nation for

The grieving

A holocaust must happen now and then,

It seems

Babel, Rome to the Goths

Constantinople to the Christians

Germany to the Jews


And all the despotisms that have set

Fire to nations

And for a time burned ours,

Though we have to speak to freedom, now


We have to know

The idea matters

Of democracy

Over agenda

The vote over manipulations

Free-to-choose over robbing choices

From us

And then there are the harder notions

Love over hate

Forgiveness over condemnation

Though I struggle with that last shade, too,

Wishing wanton killers

All to hell

While me and mine

And victims

Go to paradise


The good Muslim wasn’t there

To kill the Christians, Jews, Muslims

Hindus, Buddhists, Jainists, and all who take the


Agnostics and atheists

Belief or lack thereof was not a standard

Everyone was worthy

To be killed

The only thing of value to the killers

A notion of terror

Destroy the enemy

Without a real plan for what is next

Since the aim has no success

With which to deal


The main thing for us now

Is knowing the dead

To take those on the wrong side

Of anger

To place them inside good, quiet parts

Of Earth

In New York, Pennsylvania

Washington, D.C.

And all the family and the military plots

Required in so many places

To read words over these

And offer prayers


Terrorism is its own failure

We are free to think on better things

A purer world

Filtered like our water

And our better thoughts

With restraint, awareness,

And love, all love

In stronger, wiser forms

Certainly than they

Who went without

Picked up the devil’s way

With unearthly explosions

Without a thought

The brain shellacked with scorn

And counting people

Like matchsticks,

Too ready to burn


Though death is complicated

Murder, more so

And those of us in sunshine

Have to learn

Yes, certainly remember

Be smarter for the future

That arrives each day

Becomes the present

In which we clump the ash

Plant it, hope for

Fine returns

In crops and beauty

Sustenance that will destroy

Sin’s purpose

Hate’s agenda

Turn over like the soil

On which we stand

And where those of us

Still here—and we are here—

Must grow





There have fires elsewhere

Many parts burn now

Inside the head

And through our hearts

Piercing the abdomen

On which our other organs sit

We should not forget

The hungry and the powerless

Who have food and will withheld

All the rescuing required

God and our better parts

Bless them and keep them

All the rescuers


C L Couch



Photo by Ben Lei on Unsplash

9/11 Memorial, New York City, USA


We’ll Burn the Palms for Next Year’s Ash

We’ll Burn the Palms for Next Year’s Ash


Today is Palm Sunday.  I recall this because I saw,

just now, an image with two pieces of wood, tied and

at an angle.  I suppose many are celebrating—feasting,

in fact, since it is the end of Lent—the way I am but

with honest hearts.


Lent is done, although the days of ash continue.  Nothing

new for planet Earth and the people of it.  What do we

know of ash but that it’s final in remembrance?

We might take the stuff and try to rework it, but what it means

remains the same.  We are of ash.  We’ve tasted it.


We try to contain it, though it’s mischievous in

blowing around.  Where does that wind come from?

“Dust in the wind.” “Turn, turn, turn.”  Every generation asks

the question, needs an answer, doesn’t get one.

There is ash.  It’s everywhere.  We think it’s dust, though we’ll never

clear it out.  We can’t.  As I say with all the singers,


it is us.  We are ash.


C L Couch



Photo by Niklas Tidbury on Unsplash

This was a picture I took just for fun. One of those “that would look cool”-moments. I only realised the contrast between the new, fresh, ready-to-burn wood and the spent ashes of a campfire, like the wood was ready to meet its maker. Kinda sad actually.


This begins a week-long devotional, “Holey Week.”  The title is intentionally spelled.


Lent 7

Lent 7


A week from Mardi Gras

(fat Tuesday, )Shrove Tuesday,

Fastnacht that in

Pennsylvania (USA) is a doughnut


And the observance

What did we shrive,

We shrove the house of fat

Of everything extravagant that might

Distract us

From the discipline

Of remembrance and devotion

For the coming days


Okay, so what did we really do:

We might have had our fun on Tuesday

But who’s to say the next day was


It should have been, I guess

A mood for taking ashes if for nothing else


Though there was something,

Something not to miss

The start of a new season

Not as fun as Advent


Without the fire that comes with


Let alone the triumph that is



There is an odd coupling as well

Since spring is starting now in northern climes

There are signs

Today there has been sudden warmth outside


There are springs of a green kind


There are signs

Of nascent life

What shall we own, then

Of dust or seedlings?


Maybe we take both

To have a time of stillness and of energy

A quiet dynamo

Fueled for the change by fragrant remembrances

In growth


C L Couch



DeFacto – Own work

Warwick Castle water-powered generator house, used for the generation of electricity for the castle from 1894 until 1940


Easter Saturday 2017

Easter Saturday 2017


Grey house near a sodden hilltop

Under a sky of ashes

We all live there from time to time

One by one


Our own Golgotha

Gehenna, Calvary


Our own ordinary crucifixions

Bereft of hope

And faith

Waiting for life


C L Couch


Brain Burn

Brain Burn


Or the Quixote syndrome

(unofficial, made it up)

Idealism cannot last

But in my mind, it’s cauterized


After the fires, it’s clear

The windmill’s won

I ride away on my pink horse

Thankful Sancho Panza

Hadn’t seen

Or heard or felt or touched or savored


Any of this,

Flame or ash


C L Couch


Ashen Wednesday

Ashen Wednesday
(liturgical need)

You have dirt on your
Forehead, the student says

I wanted you to know so you
Don’t walk around all day
That way

But I had just come from
Church (an early mass), and
Wearing the dirt (the ash)
All day would be our routine

If I had to guess, I’d say the
Room is mostly learner-
Populated with evangelicals
With maybe an honest
Agnostic or two,

In which (for all) formal
Understanding, knowing of
Old church practices would
Not be prominent among or


But any church that survives
In turn gains its own

And we spend time after
Noticing the dirt, talking
About spiritual habits plus
Other rituals

My church is trying this,
Someone observes

Yeah, my church, too, another

And so together in discovery

It appears—newer evangelical,
Independent communities
Reviving treasured actions
Of the first church,

The one ablaze at Pentecost

Reviving in the church is good:
There is great precedence for

And for all of us on this new

Day, we find new ways into
(To share outside)

A faithful, ancient season

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