Issue Date: March 26, 2004
Receive the ashes, but taste the honey
-- KRT/Shane Keyser
By DEMETRIA MARTINEZ
A few years back during Lent I had a dream; when I woke up I recorded it
exactly as I remembered it, with no flourishes, in the form of a poem:
|Upon Waking, A Lenten Dream
I walk to the front of a
(You cross your arms, stay standing in
The congregants line up, come forward.
A rabbi smudges a circle of
ash on each
I am thinking: I already received ashes
I am thinking: I didnt know the Jews had such a
I am thinking: Why am I surprised? So
much of what we
We invented was in fact inherited from
cantor, a woman, approaches me.
She opens a tin of honey, holds out the
Taste, she says, and I touch the gold
liquid, touch my tongue.
Before she moves on, she says, You
To accept sweetness
as you have accepted
(And you? As always you stand
Evading. Avoiding. The honey. The ash.)
So, its not enough: to receive the ashes, to ponder our own
inevitable deaths, to remember those who died at the hands of death squads or
SS guards or those incinerated by bombs built with our own tax dollars. We
ponder, remember and repent but we dont stop there. We taste the honey,
celebrating the sweetness of life witnessed in a kind act, a work of art, the
sky on a beautiful day, an unexpected victory in the struggle for justice. We
honor the dead by celebrating life, loving it so deeply that we find it within
ourselves to create a world without holocausts. Sin? We sin when we stand
detached, imagining we are above needing others. Only in community do we
have the strength to partake of both ash and honey, and to cultivate a dream of
a whole world.
Demetria Martinez is the author of three collections of poetry and a
novel, Mother Tongue.
National Catholic Reporter, March 26, 2004