Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Thérèse

Abraham Heschel
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“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

Conjuring Up the Eternal – Part 3 of 7


III.

Speaking of Death

Into the box of the black-eyed menace I go,
Its coffin lid, like heaven itself, slammed shut.
Steep cliffs loom large at each of its four walls
Where vultures wait their turn in silence.

I nod off.  Who knows whether, if I say
I've come here seeking life and wisdom,
With these gifts, or with neither, or with some
Kind of hellish madness, I will return?  No
Matter.  I follow the rolling edge of nightfall.

*

"We've waited an hour to hear your footsteps
Approaching on the wet grass; and now
Look at you," exclaimed the guardians at
Heaven's gate, "showing up like this, downtrodden
And dirty, traipsing in with mud on your boots,

Trailing it across the lawn."  It's a choice spot,
This patch of St. Augustine grass, like a foam pillow
From which to wander off into dream and fill
The mind with its own clink-clank of loose change,
As if it were a tin cup.  Above me leaves rattle

While the dream begins to inch out onto the
White surface of my soul.  Amazing, everywhere
I see unbroken blue sky as I sail along home,
No longer feeling like a marooned, motherless soul.
It was my hope all along to go to a place where

Longing's become both joy and love joined as one,
A great bell unfurling its most resonant tone
In a wide echo that's everywhere overhung
With the Spirit's gently prodding, protective care.

*

It doesn't matter that my body is now made
Of straw, my torso packed tight into a flannel shirt,
As if I'd donned an outer skin of fur.  But
With the Spirit so near, I have no need

To surrender myself to the wind, letting it
Scatter me across the landscape, off into
The realm of nature's brute noises, its grunts
And growls and nervously lowing cattle.

Emptiness of body is no longer entertained,
Not anymore, for there is, in the steady,
Breath-like rhythm of my soul, an inner weight
Upholding me.  Death is now wakefulness, in which
I see that I'm not alone, that I never have been.

***


The movements of this poem are perhaps straightforward enough, although the imagery is a bit whimsical.  I guess the two questions I would ask are:  Do you find the poem's images for death, and for what awaits us after death, expressive, playful, simply different, peculiar, or unusual?  Which image especially stands out to you, works for you, or seems potentially memorable?


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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