Ruth Linnea Whitney has won the Grand Prize in the Presbyterian Writers Guild’s Ash Wednesday writing contest. Whitney, a member of First Presbyterian Church in Port Townsend, Washington, was awarded first place in the poetry category and the $100 Grand Prize for her poem “Ash Season.” She has given churches permission to reprint or otherwise use her poem with proper attribution.
In her poem Ash Season, Ruth Linnea Whitney takes the reader on a Lenten journey from naïve hope, through death and grief, to a seasoned faith. She anchors the spiritual in rich earthy details—the stone walk, a jaw, slender wrists, sawgrass. And after the grief, the poet quiets herself and listens for an active, tender God: a God who knows, who sees, who gathers. Easter is coming.
—Jane Kurtz and Caroline Kurtz
By Ruth Linnea Whitney
Everything was easy then and clear.
The world and I were heady with our holdings.
I sowed my future, breath to breath, cunning
as that lone cock who crowed while they led my Lord
up the stone walk and hoisted him between thieves.
The season turned and ease receded, the world and I
turned gray. My father’s jaw burned to silt in an urn.
My mother’s slender wrists cast over buffalo grass
where she began. My friend saw her boy earn his wings,
his plane and body splinter. Far away, a girl of six knelt
on a land mine she took for saw grass. Hours like these,
the ashes fell.
I kneel now and listen for the fall of ashes.
Listen for the One who knows each spark,
sees each particle alight on earth,
gathers each tiny grave into the enormous dark,
where the return to life is done.