The Ashes on My Forehead With a forehead donned with ashes I am self-conscious. I’ve departed from the ordinary; My appearance is made strange. Yet, people remain unfazed— No questions ventured or eyebrows raised, No prolonged stares. I’m spared. I’m spared the judgments so many face Because others have deemed them Different— Not “unique” or “specialized” But distinctly other, lesser, unwelcome. They cannot escape prolonged stares Or harmful, fear-driven responses, And they carry deep anxiety and shame, Which cannot be wiped away Like ashes on a forehead. With a forehead donned with ashes, I am self-conscious.