On Ash Wednesday, rain drums a quiet mercy.

John comes home, forehead smudged in a black cross.

A week later, cherry trees bloom in South Philly,

buds fat with wanting though it is not yet spring.

I walk and count each ready shoot: plum, pear,

red tip, daffodil. Already crocuses are spent;

yellow forsythia nearly faded to forget-me-not.

White and pink are whimsies. No time to think -

just be. Sixty-five today, frost tonight, dead blossoms

in the gutter by morning. On the stoop of the bakery

by St. Paul's, a grandfather laughs and lays a match

to a pastel wrapper freed from an amaretto cookie.

All around him, small hands drop crumbs; children stare

bewondered as the fiery paper snakes through the air,

becomes a burst of nothing - no color, not even ash.