“Somehow by day, no matter what, I patch myself together whole, But all my effort can’t offset–the nightly nakedness of soul– When Angels in a dark descent–strip off my integument.
I am a cornered rebel pinched–Between night’s armies and my lack, And when inside the bedclothes hunched- I feel the force of their attack, I hardly know what I can do, Exposed to God at half past two.
I once believed my being full, But night thoughts prove that it is not. Waking scared and miserable, I scrape the bottom of the pot. And then must bow down and confess–totality of emptiness.
Kings once ventured, it is said. To offer gold and frankincense But I send nothing from my bed–except a tattered penitence. So very little has accrued–From years of doubtful plenitude.
God who tear away my cover, Oh, pour your Spirit into me–until my emptiness runs over with golden superfluity, and so bow down and offer up–Yourself within my earthly cup.”
Night Thoughts by William F. Bell
For all of you who have wrestled with God at half past two….
Everything is more intense at night. Long ago times and spaces swirl with the present in a dance of cellular memory.
Perhaps in those spaces there is also a wrestling in the places unseen.
God who tear away my cover…
I love the poet William Bell’s honesty. Those Kings of old? Gold and frankincense were in their hands. Me? I send nothing from my bed. Even my prayers are tattered.
And then the paradox. Until my emptiness runs over…
And the cup is full. Of something other than me.
I see this again and again in the still spaces between Day and night. These are the spaces between, in which babies like to be born.
It is always when the woman is utterly at the end of herself that the baby births, right into the mama’s waiting hands.
That image feels appropriate here, reflecting on these haunting words. It is holy ground, the long waiting in the long night.
And I bow down and offer up, Yourself within my earthen cup.
From the Lenten Poetry Companion, Mystic Activists, Neighborhood Ministries.
Bell, William F. “Night Thoughts” from America Magazine, Vol. 187, No. 18, 12/02/2002.