If You Must…

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.

~Marilyn Nelson from “Dusting” from Magnificat

It comes equally to us all,
and makes us all equal when it comes.

The ashes of an oak in the chimney
are no epitaph of that oak,

to tell me how high or how large that was;
it tells me not what flocks it sheltered while it stood,
nor what men it hurt when it fell †
and when a whirlwind hath blown
the dust of the churchyard into the church,
and the man sweeps out
the dust of the church into the churchyard,
who will undertake
to sift those dusts again

~John Donne from “The Equality of Death”

Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself, will make more dust.
~Rose Milligan “Dust If You Must”

…we all look the same in our beginning
and again when the end comes…
we are sifted through His hands,
blown on with His breath,
bled on in His sacrifice–

As varied as we are now in life,
our bodies in death melt to a dustiness
made manifest in His image:
dust motes sprung to life forever.


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