Reflection on the Approach
of Another Birthday

“He found them in a wilderness, a wasteland…”

—Deuteronomy 32:10

I find, I fear, I can’t outleap,
As age begins its yearly creep
To center stage, the gnawing sense
That time is getting shorter yet
For all my failings to beget
Some reasonable self-defense.

And yes, I guess I’m fairly good:
I more or less do what I should,
Yet nonetheless can’t lose the taste
Of years too silly and too sad
(And some, quite frankly, simply bad)
That bear the sourness of waste.

Nor can I either, God be blessed,
Deny that in that sorry mess
A constant mercy was deployed
That righted me each time I tipped
And even now, each time I slip
Enfolds me in its boundless joy.



Jeffrey Essmann is an essayist and poet living in New York. His poetry has appeared in numerous magazines and literary journals, among them Agape Review, America Magazine, Dappled Things, the St. Austin Review, U.S. Catholic, Grand Little Things, Heart of Flesh Literary Journal, and various venues of the Benedictine monastery with which he is an oblate. He is editor of the Catholic Poetry Room page on the Integrated Catholic Life website.

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12 Responses

  1. Paul A. Freeman

    Look on the bright side. Without those slips, you wouldn’t be the person you are, today.

    Thanks for the reflective piece, Jeffrey.

  2. Phil S. Rogers

    Your beautiful poem speaks for me and so many others as we reflect back on decades past. Thank you.

  3. Roy Eugene Peterson

    Amen! Birthdays are often a time of reflection of what could have been and what we did wrong. We all feel the effects of age and contemplate the eventual abyss. Those who are saved need not fear what comes next.

  4. jd

    I love this poem, Jeffrey. It’s so relatable! If for nothing else, your birthday was memorable for producing this poem. I hope it was happy for other reasons as well.

  5. Jeffrey Essmann

    Thanks, everyone. It was indeed a wonderful birthday, and all the more so for your kind appreciation of my work. So happy to know it touched you. Thanks again.

  6. Cynthia Erlandson

    Deep thoughts, succinctly expressed. Somehow, the last line of the first stanza made me smile: it does seem hard, at times, to defend one’s continued existence. The first two stanzas express regrets and frustrations; the third presents a lovely relief in its recollection that our Creator is merciful and gracious.

  7. Gigi Ryan

    Happy Birthday, Jeffrey,
    Thank you for sharing this poem; I can relate to it. I lament time wasted in my past and it’s always good to be reminded of “mercy deployed.”

  8. Gary Feest

    Having sat behind you for three years of High School, and knowing you since our 13th birthdays, I can relate….and I like the idea of “reflecting” on something that hasn’t happened yet.

  9. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Jeffrey, a belated happy birthday to you. I’m drawn to the humble honesty in a poem that deals with the human condition and the grace of God. We are all sinful… and yet we are blessed with a love beyond human comprehension. Your poem is beautiful.


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