The Comfort of Ashes

I wrote this poem the day after Ash Wednesday a few years ago and it’s now a part of an Easter cycle of poems.

The Comfort of Ashes
There’s something clean about ashes;
Rubbish reduced to uniform powder.
No heaps of trash to hurt the eye,
No rotting corpse to hurt the heart.
A gust of wind, a wash of water
And it’s gone for good:
It does not disturb me that I am such dust;
What the fire cannot touch
Never can be touched
By hand or flame or even eyes.
Let then the residual ash be blown
On the wind and be gone,
Returned to the kind earth
Whose bones gave me form
And let my soul go home unhindered.

10 thoughts on “The Comfort of Ashes

    • Thank you.
      I was washing the ash off my face the morning after an evening Ashing service(I normally wash my face before bed but had chosen not to) and it came to me. I went that day to a Quiet Day retreat and wrote the poem there.
      nice to see you here!


    • Cremation was not an option in England until recently(well relatively) and was actually against the law into late Victorian times. It was to do with a belief in an actual physical bodily resurrection that needed a near complete body to work!
      I don’t want to be cremated when I go; I’d like a woodland burial, which are catching on here quite fast. The idea is that the land is then set aside as a nature reserve, and can’t be built on etc. It seems a good way of ensuring some land is kept for nature. I know I’d rather visit a woodland to remember my loved ones. A great deal of English churchyards are now sanctuaries for wildlife and are managed accordingly, but there is little or no room left in traditional ones and the modern ones are basically lawns with headstones and not a lot else. hence the birth of the Woodland burial movement; they plant trees as well as bodies!


  1. Very nice, Viv. I would like to be cremated for the reasons you write about, but this horrifies my children. I don’t know why, it just does…I know its my body but i also know i’ll be gone so whatever gives them comfort is fine with me, and ultimately more important to me.


  2. Viv, Your poems are moving and incredibly deep.
    I actually feel your unhappiness (these are usually the best poems), but just a little bit of ‘light’.(?)…


    • For me there is always a little bit of light. Even in the darkest of hours, there is always some light, somewhere.
      About three years back I had a very dark period indeed. Everytime I tried to look into the future, I saw nothing; it was like looking into a void. And the void looked back. For me, the apparent consciousness of the void was the light.
      I’m currently trying to post a series of poems going through the liturgical season of Lent and Easter, and following the changes there.


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