Ernesto Cardenal - Midnight Office

[Oficio Nocturno]

2 AM. It is the hour of the Midnight Office, and in shadow
the church seems full of demons.
This is the hour of darkness and parties.
The hour of my binges. And my past returns.
“And my sin is always before me”
And while we recite the psalms, my memories
interfere with prayer like radios and jukeboxes.
Old movie scenes come back, nightmares, hours
alone in hotels, dances, journeys, kisses, bars.
And forgotten faces appear. Sinister things.
Somoza, assassinated, comes out of his mausoleum. (With
Sihon, king of the Amorites, and Org, king of Bashan).
The lights of the “Copacabana” shimmering on the black water
of the boardwalk that flows from the sewers of Managua.
Absurd conversations of drunk nights
that repeat and repeat like a scratched disc.
And the screams of the roulette wheels, and the jukeboxes.
“And my sin is always before me”
It is the hour when the lights of the brothels
and cantinas glow. The house of Caiaphas is full of people.
The lights of Somoza’s palace are on.
It is the hour when the War Councils meet
and the torture technicians go down to the prisons.
The hour of the secret police and of spies,
when robbers and adulterers circle the houses
and the corpses hide themselves. A package falls into the water.
It is the hour when the dying enter agony.
The hour of sweat in the orchard, and of temptations.
Outside the birds sing sadly,
calling the sun. It is the hour of darkness.
And the church is freezing cold, as if full of demons,
while we go on reciting the psalms in the night.