Laura Anella Johnson

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Ash Wednesday

“She would of been a good woman,” the Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.” –Flannery O’Connor

Usually in white, our pastor wears black
tonight, explains the words he’ll say,
and the ashes.
Mortality sprinkled on my head.
Humanness, confronting death.

I’ve known it in fleeting Grandmother-with-the-Misfit moments:
a semi bears down– it must not have brakes,
a cancerous lump– until a medical test absolves it,
a speedboat-driving maniac slings me and my bouncing raft–
I’ll fly off, crash into a moccasin nest,

And each time, I become a good woman,
struggles and doubts, clear as cleansing rain
because nothing matters but that
the line connecting me to Him holds.

I bow slightly as he sprinkles,
“You are ash, and to ash you will return.”

Laura Anella Johnson is the author of Not Yet (Kelsay Books, 2019). Her work has appeared in a range of online and print journals and anthologies, including Blue Heron Review, Time of Singing, Literary Mama, and Snakeskin. She holds an MFA from Fairfield University and teaches English/ESOL at Fayette County High School in Georgia.

Photo credit: “Sunday’s palms, Wednesday’s ashes” by John, via (modified by Veronica McDonald).

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