When My Time Comes for Ashes and Dust


Michael Coffey

When my time comes for ashes and dust
and final things said and momentary lament
let there be tears freely flowing in the congregation
and a bit of wailing for a while to get things going

and then let there be in the frankincensed aisles
of the church when the cross makes its way
past the black suits and the pressed handkerchiefs
and children fidgeting oblivious to grief rituals

– let there be a procession of drums stirring the souls
of those who still have heartbeat rhythms,
djembes and doumbecs, tree drums and rattle gourds
calling to the wildness of all the still living and all too tame

downbeats and syncopations
and finger riffs in complicated cadences
and hands red from so much music making
reminding everyone who came for me

in between the silences and the cadence
of the twisting walk through the labyrinth of life
I made some music, loving in time and in counterpoint,
but too tamed when it needed to echo the feral call of the  divine,

the ecstasy song of my paschal mystery stride through the universe.
But you breathers even in grief still have hands, fingers, and hearts
and before your final walk down the aisle in a little ashy urn
you’ve got a dancing pulse urging you to

more wildness and less cautious stillness
more drumming and less watching from a distance
more moving in your skin as God moves through you
in this percussive dance around the firelight of infinite love.


  1. Thanks Michael for such a poignant poem. I would like to use it for a service I am leading at Wesleyan Homes Assisted Living on Ash Wednesday.

  2. Thank you. Feel free to use. I appreciate credit for it.

  3. Oh my gosh, I LOVE this, Mike! The richness of image and phrase will provide many hours of contemplation and pleasure. I'm most challenged and intrigued by the invitation to "more wildness", "less watching from a distance", and "more moving in your skin". It resonates deep within - a place most Lutherans won't even admit to having!

    Thank you for sharing the vivid life within you. And ask me to tell you about Grace sometime!

  4. Thanks! Is this Barbara W? Isn't "W" for "wild woman"?


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