Three Nocturnes

by Jeffrey Essmann

Nocturne I
When God first pulled the dark from light
And said, “I think I’ll call you Night”
And saw that it was good,
It then was understood
That day and night were both of equal cheer.
No, God did not create nocturnal fear. 

The stars blushed softly in the sky;
A dusty pearl, the moon sailed high
Through folds of glistening space.
This nightly carapace
Looked down upon an earth of godly calm
Where lion roars were but an evening psalm.

But Man had something up his sleeve
(Though naked): Adam and his Eve
By dazzling light of day
To Satan’s ruse gave way,
And from the shadow of the Tempter’s tree
Was born the night of our anxiety.

Nocturne II
And it was night, the Evangelist said,
The last time the Twelve and Jesus would meet;
The streets of Jerusalem dark and dead
As He put on the towel and washed their feet:
Persimmon and myrrh in the evening air;
Somewhere nearby a plaintive prayer,
A steady stream that calmly, breath by breath
Recalled God’s sending the Angel of Death.
And night it was when Judas finally rose
From table; night when at the door
He turned and saw the loaf in two be torn;
And pitchest black when on the street he froze,
Then walked into a night that knew no dawn
And stumbled on an apple two bites gone. 

Nocturne III
And now in the December deep,
wrapped in astronomy and news,
I watch and wait
as endless night the sorry world
seems to eclipse;
and in the silence realize
that light can sometimes whisper:
it has a voice
(the same that separated
dark from light
so long ago
so now/so then
so always)
and still insists
that all of it
(all of it)
is good.

Jeffrey Essmann is a poet and essayist living in New York. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, among them Dappled Things, U.S. Catholic, the St. Austin Review, America Magazine, Grand Little Things, and various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate. He is editor of the Catholic Poetry Room page on the Integrated Catholic Life website.

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