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p o e m

Ash Wednesday at the Doctors

by John Buehrens

"Tell me," inquired Dr. Tang, after saying that the mole
in the middle of my chest, though "interesting,"
isn't cancer, at least not yet, "You're a man
of the cloth. What's your theory of evil?"

I stammered inane things about suffering --
how some destroys, some integrates;
about natural evil -- like earthquakes, for example --
that from our point of view only destroy,

but from God's point of view may also enhance.
Before I could talk about Mount Pinatubo, however,
he told me a tale about his younger daughter,
who had thrush as a child, became reclusive,

hard to reach, even strange, until one day
while visiting friends, when his wife, who is blind
in one eye, weak in the other, had Tarot cards cast
saying ominous things. On the way home in the car

the little girl woke from a sleep, and with a deep voice,
like a man's, clawed at her mother, saying, "I'm going
to kill you, tear your eyes out!" "I grabbed her,"
said the doctor, "took her outside the car,

and said the only real heartfelt prayer I've ever prayed:
'O God, protect this child! Protect her from evil!'
Then she threw up, projectile vomiting, looked at me,
and said, 'Thank you, Daddy!' She's been fine
ever since. Now what, Reverend, do you make of that?"

The Rev. John Buehrens is president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. This poem was first published in the Journal of Liberal Religion (October 1999), the online publication of Meadville/Lombard Theological School, and is reprinted by permission.

UU World XV:2 (May/June 2001): 16.

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