Magdalene’s Night – a poem by Johanna Caton, O.S.B.

Magdalene’s Night

	First Watch

I had no fear of the dead,
the dead and darkness.  I feared the wolves, 
but howling stopped hours before.

Before that, hours of howling feeling. 
Feeling died, then, when he died, 
except the quick-sand,

quick-sand feeling of grief and
grief opened wider with panic-kicking.
I tried the death of sleep.

Sleep slid off, snake-like, under a stone.
A stone.   He is behind one.  Before sun rose I rose. 
Go, I said. Go to his tomb.

His tomb where they laid his body. 
His body?  More stone than flesh, but in life
rippling – everything. 

Anything that was left of him
I needed.  I had no fear
of the dead, and the wolves.

	Second Watch

The wolves had left their silence behind.
Behind their silence, heavy and hunted,
I dressed and hunted thought

and thought hunted mind-pictures.
Pictures keep pushing, rushing – a swollen river  
of agony.  I could not look away.

Away I went three years ago to follow.
Follow as they followed him, I said.  
My rule: always to be there.

Be there, I said to myself – I, one hunted.
I hunted for my shawl.
Be there now.   Hurry.

Hurry through the dark. It mattered.
It mattered to him I was alive -
He would look round

look round for me, catch my eye, 
a small nod.  I mattered then.  And now?
Wolves were silent.

	Third Watch

Silent one day – a moment.
Moment without crowds – he had asked me
why I followed.  Slowly,

slowly the answer came: 
so much to say. Say just the one thing,
I thought.

I thought it came to this: 
I said, You are, you are like 
the Temple, Lord.
The Lord looked so long
and long at me with such wonder,  I 
grew frightened.

Fright and menace 
menaced me in the tearing of evil 
wind and angry clouds.

Clouds.  Breaking light.  I ran,  
I out-stripped the night, seeking the Temple 
of his body.

Johanna Caton, O.S.B., is a Benedictine nun.  She was born in the United States and lived there until adulthood, when her monastic vocation took her to England, where she now resides.  Her poems have appeared in The Christian Century, The Windhover, The Ekphrastic Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, The Catholic Poetry Room, and other venues, both online and print. 

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