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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Night; The Mystery

By: Clifford Venho


It hovers

around my ears,

covers my eyes

with clarity of the unseen;

it unfolds, petal by petal,

the flower of its hushed

existence, hidden

in a forgotten corner

of the universe,

away from the fiery worlds

of insatiable burning.

Here you can be still;

here you can be self

without being self;

here you can feel the

seeds of stars resting

in the soil of the infinite.

This is the ground from which

all things arise, to which

all things return;

this is the rich, dark

loam of life and

the chill earth of death.

This is night.

The Mystery

When I reach the end,

I fall into the undiscovered

as if it were a bed of dreams.

The mystery surrounds me—

an ocean of truth, terrible and wonderful.

I listen to what the waves want to say,

to what the depths let rise

into the inner chamber of the ear.

Everything whispers the unknown

in syllables of fire; and it is I

who have sought the inviolate,

the imperceptible—

needing to hear

what hides everywhere

as inaudible name.


Clifford Venho is a writer, poet, and translator. He studied English and creative writing at the State University of New York at New Paltz. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The Westchester Review, The Dewdrop, Modern Literature, the Stonesthrow Review, and elsewhere. His poem 'For a Moment' was shortlisted for the 2020 Arts Competition at La Piccioletta Barca Magazine. He is the translator of several books, including Novalis’ Hymns to the Night, which was published by Mercury Press in 2015. His essays have appeared in The Decadent Review and Being Human. He lives with his wife in the Upper Hudson Valley.

“A poem should never mean but be.”

–Archibald MacLeish

It is a well-known fact that poems should always speak for themselves. With that said, I would still like to include a few observations about what was living in me when I wrote these two poems. My hope is to illuminate the context in which they were written, not their meaning.


The night has always been something that speaks to me. It isn’t so much the actual, physical night but the state of “nightness.” I’m a translator, and one of the first poems I ever translated was Hymns to the Night by the German poet Novalis. In the long poem, Novalis addresses the night as a being: “A rich balsam drips from your hand, from a bundle of poppies. You raise up the heavy wings of the mind.” This existence within night and the consciousness that it awakens in me stands at the origin of this poem.

“The Mystery”

On the western coast of Spain, there is a peninsula that marks the end of the Camino del Santiago de Compostela. It is called Finisterre because it was believed to be the “end of the world.” The poem arose out of this image of standing at the end of the world after a long pilgrimage. It is not located in this physical place but in an inner place, in a moment of experience. To fall into the undiscovered, to seek the hidden names behind things—this is a stage along the inner path that is outwardly represented by the Camino. San Juan de la Cruz called it the dark night of the soul. It is in the darkness, in the undiscovered, that we hear the inaudible names, the essences, that speak the world into existence.


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