Prayer/poem for autumn nightfall
October 21, 2013
You mix the watercolors of the evening
like my son, swishing his brush
until the waters are black with paint.
The sky is streaked and dimming.
The sun wheels over the horizon
like a glowing penny falling into its slot.
Day is spent, and in its place: the changing moon,
the spatterdash of stars across the sky's expanse.
Every evening we tell ourselves the old story:
You cover over our sins, forgiveness
like a fleece blanket tucked around our ears.
When we cry out, You will hear.
Soothe my fear of life without enough light.
Rock me to sleep in the deepening dark.
This coming Friday I'll be teaching the first of a series of monthly classes on the poetry of Jewish liturgical prayer at the coffee shop in my town. (The class is free and open to all.) We'll begin by looking at one of my favorite Hebrew prayers which is also a poem: the ma'ariv aravim blessing for God Who brings on (or "evens") the evenings. Once we've spent some time with the poetry of the prayer itself, we'll also look at some adaptations and some other poems on similar themes, ranging from Rabbi Rayzel Raphael's "Evening the Evenings" to Jane Kenyon's "Let Evening Come" to this new poem of my own.
The final lines are a reference to the prelude to evening prayer, v'hu rachum, a pair of lines from Psalm 78 and from psalm 20. As Elliott Dorff notes (in My People's Prayer Book Vol. 9: Welcoming the Night), "The evening liturgy begins by acknowledging human vulnerability occasioned by nighttime darkness. God, we are assured, will save us from potential dangers. God will protect us from what we fear." As the parent of a young child who is afraid of the dark, I find these lines particularly resonant now. And, of course, many adults who no longer fear the dark still fear the onset of winter's long darkness.
Photo source: my flickr stream.