It's called that, my mother said,
because whoever gets out of bed
last has to take them out.
Our stove presided over the kitchen
like Old King Cole, feeding on huge
helpings of wood and anthracite.
In winter we took turns standing
behind it to get dressed for school.
For half a year every year we huddled
around it. When we moved away
to a house with an oil furnace, emptying
ashes ended. Our town had no Catholic
church. It wasn't till I got to college
and saw smudged foreheads that
I knew my mother was wrong about it.
I learned to remember that I was dust.