Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Poet and Contemplative

“From the abundance of his spirit [the poet] pours out secrets and mysteries rather than rational explanation” (Prologue, The Spiritual Canticle).

“In contemplation God teaches the soul very quietly and secretly, without its knowing how, without the sound of words” (Chapter 39, The Spiritual Canticle).

In the spirit of St. John of the Cross, this blog reflects on the contemplative experience and the poetic experience, sometimes separately and distinctly, sometimes in common, as mutually enlightening.

I will also post to this blog, from time to time, my own poetry, with a short interpretive note attached.

~ Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

Seven Conversation Poems – Part 4



IV.

Ready for Omnipotence 

The sun is sinking as the earth, far away, receives it;
The two recede still further, off into darkness. Dusk
Floats upward, weightless, happy, a last breath
Mixing with the freedom of the stars. Time expires 

Into timelessness, and we feel it, this departure—
Like the lifting of August that is September, 
Like the vastness of young love that is the night.



One wave of my hand and, presto, there you are,
Willed into being—you who are forever, O Night,
Blind to me here beneath you. I want nothing 
But for you to be yourself and nothing else; and if
You were ever to see me, could you still be yourself

High above and without me? But you must be
Without me, existing before me, abiding eternally,
So that I might come to behold you and will you
Just so—for that is the one task assigned me tonight.

*

As a child I used to believe I could think things away;
I could think poof, and they’d be gone. (Oh, I don’t

Remember actually believing this, although I must have
At some point or other; magical thinking does have

Its draw, and we all give it a try, from time to time,
Just to see how it feels when it fails to work.). So, then,

To will it away and wish it dead, gone for good; or
To will it alive, a living, breathing thing, to will it just so––


If in time I chose the latter for pretty much everything,
Was it just because it works, other approaches proving
Futile? Or was there something more at stake, something
Truly worth choosing? Was the possibility kept from me, 

The possibility of omnipotence—kept safe like an
Inheritance—till I should learn to choose acceptance,
Always and everywhere, having no other option. Then,
Once omnipotence was finally handed over to me, 

Like a key to a cabin in the woods—to will it away,
Whatever it might be, to say sayonara, goodbye—
Or to will it just so, all of it, precisely—after a lifetime

I knew what to do, and, with little fanfare, I did it.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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Seven Conversation Poems - Part 3





    III.

Musings on Mortality


At first I thought—Death shall have the sensation of falling,
And as the dark rises to catch me, closing in around me,
Who can say what awaits below?  It could go on like this,
With me toppling head over heels, for a very long time,

Till the sheer loneliness of it all destroyed me, or the fear
Of the inexorable thud and sudden, all-consuming pain,
Which I’d have to keep pushing from my mind, finally
Overmastered me—like an ear-worm driving me mad.

    *

Then I thought—Death will be like having no say in the matter,
Whatever the matter is, and whatever it isn’t; nothing I say
Or do will make the least bit of difference.  Implacability
Will have taken hold, along with a helplessness pressing

The eternal question against my soul—who’s in charge here?
Who can save me?  Everything I have ever learned,
The whole viability motif that this organism supporting
My brain has sought with single-minded focus to master,

It will all desert me.  And it’s only fanciful to think that
I could ever freely choose to empty myself, handing myself
Over to death in a gesture of total self-renunciation.
The thought does huddle in my mind.  But wouldn’t it be

Just one more last ditch effort to reassert control, believing
It is I, this thing that I am, who does the renouncing, right?

    *

And so I thought—Maybe that’s how the Creator wants it,
A kind of perfecting of our freedom, long years in the making.
Beneath the invisible breeze of His love for us, unwavering
In its vastness, patiently coaxing us along, long-suffering,

But doggedly determined, death shall have the significance
Of making us infantile again, only this time with awareness,
Willing its helplessness as a prelude to rebirth.
                                                                                          Therefore,
I thought—Death shall have the sensation of waking up
To the fact that all my needs have been abundantly met.

Cast far away is the fear of being left behind, forsaken
On the treeless plain, alone in the tall grass, with the lion
Crouching near.  It took eons to instill that fear, so deep
That only death can destroy it.  And yet, behold, it is gone.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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Seven Conversation Poems - Part 2



    II.

From Youth to Age


I wrote poem after poem.  Amazing the energy I had then,
Where today there remains only the balmy stirrings
Of music floating like low clouds over lush grass.

    *

Is it true that anger now moves me as love once did?
Is it true that I have grown that old?  I speak
Of righteous anger, of course.  For me there’s no other kind.

It’s a second face for my longing, one on which the nose
No longer exists solely for the purpose of taking in deep breaths
And letting the chest swell to embrace acres of idealism,

Then expelling them slowly, steadily, like a sigh on an April day
As it slides in between skyscrapers.
                                                                 —I recall the room at night,
And the lamplight puddling.  I was a goldfish in a fishbowl


Of the thinnest air; I lived by gasping.  No longer—
                                                                                             I’m much
Too powerless to change things, a fact I’ve learned to accept,
Since it’s nothing less than the history of the world that

Needs changing.  So anymore my lips mutter on and on
As if I were reading from a book—from Finnegan’s Wake,
No doubt—while my heart follows idiotically like flowers

Popping up after rain, buoyant on their slender stalks,
Nodding their heads vigorously—then, come evening,
Withdrawing into shadow.  I must bear up under

The knowledge of what I’ve failed at, and of my heart’s
Complicity in the failing.
                                                      —But it’s You who forced it
On me, Lord, or so I complain, till my peevishness someday


Turns into gratitude—
                                                    Poem after poem I wrote,
With a love that overflowed, for that’s what love did then,
It went into words.  Now I live like any mute thing,

Muttering by moving my lips.
                                                                   —Yet life stretches out
All around me, teeming with poetry, untroubled by wondering
What it should say—

                                       Yes, life’s become simple for me now—

I persevere in patience and tenderness, with a lightness
Lolling about in the chest cavity, and a feeling of
Having been freed from all cramped pettiness in life.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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Seven Conversation Poems – Part 1



I.

Seasons of a Soul

Summer

It’s night, and the sky has turned in, wrapped in downy haze.
The oak tree just outside my window sways slightly, beset
By its own singing.  Under my breath my being asserts
That all of it, the whole shebang, must stand still for a moment,
At least till I count to ten.  It smooths itself out, pressing

Against me, needling my heart; then the world steps forward
And begins to wobble on shaky legs—a weightlifter attempting
A clean and jerk, his barbells weighted with too much wonder.
The moment’s become unthinkable, stationed beside, before,
Above, behind, around me; it’s become unthinkably close.

Autumn

Summer is over; the air sparkles again, the edges have returned
To things—to the stars at night, to the moon in a big blue sky.
Crabapples flock beneath the shade of a crabapple tree, while
Sycamores tower over all, their leaves as big as a bear’s paw.

Squirrels crowd round to exchange gossip, each speaking
Out of turn.  I shush them, one by one, my cheeks equally puffy,
Like a cherub afloat on the golden air.  Yes, I am here, too.
Only butterflies can rival the vim and swish of my wings.

Winter

We’re standing under a winter sky, You and I; the wide sweep
Of clouds overhead hesitates, as if the worst possible thing
That could happen were about to happen.  Seeing nothing,
It moves on.  Instead, widely spaced snowflakes begin to fall,

Materializing as if out of thin air.  Yet here they are, swirling
Like feathery gnats.  That the world can be thus remade
One thing at a time, without my even noticing it—the feel of it
Registers in my bones as something altogether, absolutely true.

Spring

A new and gentler arrangement follows, warm as a room
Shot through with sunlight; far away a dripping sound awaits
Its turn on stage.  Today or tomorrow, the day after, the day
After that, I’ll call for it.  Then, like St. Therese herself, spring
Will pop up carrying a ripe bouquet of crocuses in its arms

And a wicker-basket full of yellowish green buds to dress
The mighty oak trees with.  Grass grown perpetually brown
Will again test the air, its fingers slender and green.
As for doubt and hesitation, those two most human of traits—
They have no place here; the fickleness of the heart,

Like a way of life returning for yet another yearly go-round,
Gives way to the sight of a blue sky widely saluting the occasion.
It’s springtime, time for a truly noble vision of life, one worthy
Of Your gifts—A cathedral rises from the sea, bells tolling madly;
Its towering silhouette, like nightfall, moves in and blots out the sun.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD

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