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Ash Wednesday by Lucian Mattison

I am the same boy

in the morning

who looks into the rolling boil.

Eggs buoying

in a saucepan, I whisper

the Padre Nuestro

three times, as the they dance

to a soft running

yolk. My phone

lights up beside

the cutting board,

a text from a coworker—

her sick husband in rehab—

writes, our God is

a great God. The words

I pocket in my slacks,

repeat to myself to feel

how they poke

perforations in my head

like fork tines through oil

coagulated at the top

of a mason jar. How fitting

the absence that just appears

in a life—a child opens

the heart to the divine

in the same way

we fluff a pillow

for a perished partner—

and years later,

this absence is replaced

with another, emptier one,

as if fixing this glaring hole

made in us,

were as easy as patching

the roof with a photograph

of a different hole.

I crack the egg top

with the back of a spoon,

a cup of half cooked yolk

after prayer. The methodical

triviality of tradition

burned into me

pushes the minute hand

forward, the spoon to my lips.

My grandmother’s

instruction for huevitos

pasados por agua

feels like baptism in the boil

of the morning commute.

And of course, today, downtown

is pockmarked with charcoal

crosses. The odd three

people in the crowd

of the train’s dozens

wear an antique

smudged on their forehead.

In their sleepy eyes,

I recognize a whole

realm of former self,

My skin unmarked, I

with they, ask

in our own ways

for deliverance. My afterlife

a part of my past,

I keep the dead

at the beginning,

foundation on which I am

built, mausoleum

on marmoreal face,

hardened by God, never again

between the friction

ridges of a priest’s finger.


Lucian Mattison is an Argentinian American poet and author of Peregrine Nation (The Broadkill River Press, 2014). He is the winner of the 2016 Puerto Del Sol Poetry Prize and his poems appear in The Adroit Journal, Four Way Review, Hobart, Muzzle, Nashville Review, and elsewhere online and in print. His fiction appears in Fiddleblack and Per Contra and is forthcoming in Nano Fiction. He works at The George Washington University and is an associate editor for Big Lucks. To read more visit

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