Ash Wednesday, Poetry

Burning the Palms

A sheaf of dry palms
hidden in a storage room
beneath the sanctuary
spent the past week
riding in the back seat of my car,
waiting for the moment.

Advice gathered,
I brought them inside,
laid a sheet of tin foil on the grate,
opened the flue
and began.

I cut the thin ends
put them on the foil,
triggered the lighter
and lit a wispy piece,
and then a thicker one.

Pungent, they burned,
and I added more:
six inch pieces and
two foot lengths,
front to back and
side to side.

Some smolder, but
when they catch?
the flames rise high,
red and orange
and yellow
and blue-black.

Not so black as the ash.

The palms curl and burn,
become red embers,
then faint orange,
disintegrate silkily.

I wrap them in the foil,
a neat package,
bits of palm mixed
in grey and black,
for Ash Wednesday.

6 thoughts on “Burning the Palms”

  1. I could feel my hands with your hands, coaxing the flames… and then the urge to jump back when they began to leap. Wonderful!
    A college friend sent me birthday greetings today and reminded me how we two pre-seminary students once held our own little Ash Wednesday service in the dorms with a few too many open flames…Not quite what the professors meant when they encouraged “the use of drama in worship.”

  2. This is the first year in 9 years that I did not burn the palms to make ashes…the altar guild does it here…and I actually missed that pungent smell…thanks for this virtual reminder of the day!

  3. Lovely poem. I liked especially the alliterating ‘p’s and ‘b’s, as in ‘pungent, they burned.’
    Peace to you on this Bright day — bright at least in the mitten-shaped state.

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