The Late Watch – An Advent Poem

I am reading through Fleming Rutledge’s fantastic new book Advent: The Once & Future Coming of Jesus Christ in which she makes frequent reference to WH Auden’s Christmas masterpiece in long-form poetry, For the Time Being. Both works note the focus of Advent is not simply as a prelude to Christmas, or the recollection of Jesus’ first coming, rather Advent is a forward looking, apocalyptic milestone that looks ahead to the Second Coming. I was in Sacramento, CA last weekend visiting a sick family member, and this was in the wake of the Camp Fire, which destroyed Paradise, CA. It was oddly cold this past weekend, and horrendously smoky outside, and I suppose the strange horror of a California wildfire coupled with my Advent readings gave birth to this poem:

The Late Watch

An Advent Poem

I. 

The choking smoke loiters through the late watch on the valley floor

As a smoldering parody of Tule Fog

After the fire made cinders of Paradise.

Hark, a chilling voice is sounding, a Second Coming nigh;

At November’s ending the watchman sends his asking –

Is this the hell of fire or

Is this the hell of ice?

 

Perhaps, the anchorwoman says, a hundred dead,

On the Sacramento evening news,

Perhaps a thousand missing.

And among the singed survivors a groaning

Echoes in every silent tear making a trail

Down ash-caked faces.

 

The blood sun burns red behind the incense vapors

Cast like a funeral veil across the sky

For the passing of Paradise.

Is this the hell of fire or

Is this the hell of ice?

A chilling voice is sounding, a Second Coming nigh.

 

II.

So hastens the watchman, his chilling voice resounding –

Every tremor in the earth,

Every sword drawn and redrawn in reply,

Every land wracked with disease

These past twenty centuries lead me to concede,

The end is always beginning, the Second Coming nigh

And there will be signs in sun and moon and stars,

And on the earth the distress of nations.

Every echo of Paradise is a road dusted with ashes,

A trail traced in tears.

 

The late watch waxes upon history’s rampart

For the Dawn that seems no sooner in the coming.

Still the watchman hastens the day,

While underfoot crunches the cinders of Paradise

With only faith to carry his feet.

Hark, a chilling voice is sounding and faith alone can know

The difference between a dawn erupting

In the dark, but still in time;

And the Dawn irrupting again, at last, from beyond time

That will draw time to its ending.

So waits the watchman, chilled and chilling

For that Dawn whose only whispers

Are wars and rumors of wars

And fires upon the mountain while

The choking smoke loiters through the late watch on the valley floor.

 

©Jedidiah Paschall – November 2018

Posted by

I live in Southern California, am married with three kids. I am a member of a Presbyterian church an author, educator, and freelance business consultant.

One thought on “The Late Watch – An Advent Poem

  1. Hi Jed,

    The passing of Paradise. Yes, the world was once that, but sin and man’s choices have brought the fire. But after the fire comes new life. Very telling indeed.

    Gary

    On Thu, Nov 22, 2018 at 12:50 AM ST. JUDE’S TAVERN wrote:

    > jedidiahpaschall posted: “I am reading through Fleming Rutledge’s > fantastic new book Advent: The Once & Future Coming of Jesus Christ in > which she makes frequent reference to WH Auden’s Christmas masterpiece in > long-form poetry, For the Time Being. Both works note the focus of” >

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s