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 1 of 7

As those of you who read this blog may have noticed, I've discontinued the practice of attaching interpretive comments to my poems.  I felt too uncomfortable doing it, wanting the poem to speak for itself.

But it has been suggested to me that, following each poem, I conclude with a simple question, something to prime the pump (to coin a phrase) of reflection for the reader.  It seemed like a good idea.

So, with this set of poems I will follow each poem with just such a question.  Do with it what you will.



Conjuring Up the Eternal:  7 Poems


I.


The Hourglass of Time

I have filled you with smooth, shimmering grains
Of moonlight sprinkled on the lake's dark surface tonight.
Or you are like the air to me, circulating stealthily, now here,
Now there, everywhere at once.  You have fashioned

For yourself a shape like that of two hands, left and right,
Cupped together and lifting a delicate glass bowl from
The bottom, setting it down on a table; it is a simple,
Sacred gesture, perfect in itself, timeless, with its

Ideal form hovering upside down above it, like a flying saucer.
Or let us say that, once the brandy's been served, an empty,
Pear-shaped bottle remains.  Is this your perfect image,
Though none can see or hear you, unimaginable as you are?

*

Eternity in time, you are an invisible fullness standing
Child-like among us, a glass bowl or an empty bottle
Left in the sun.  Nothing takes place inside you that you don't
Automatically reveal, crammed full as you are, busier even

Than the mind's breathlessly murmuring monologue.  Yet how
Quietly, how tranquilly, you offer up the full story of everything;
For without you and your soft whisper, without the calm
Spaciousness your storytelling bestows, each thing

Would fold in on itself and become faceless, a thing lost to us
In the crowd, or, like a cryptic rune, remain sunken
Beneath its own dark history.  Instead, all things shine,
Clearly though inaudibly proclaiming themselves
Within time's finely unfolding articulation of the world.

*

Between me and the world eternity passes back and forth
Bearing witness to the fact that, for starters, nothing
Is wholly reducible to my idea of it.  And yet I can
See it and hear it, I can understand it, if wonder be

Reckoned as understanding.  The blindfold once draped
Before my eyes begins to fall away, like cataracts, as
The white dawn of an emerging wakefulness announces itself.
Eternity says, "It's time you step forth and venture out into

A world that's radiantly awaiting you, propped up right before
Your eyes."  Yes, once I've been made ready to receive
The exploding sunlight of a June day, then there it is, timeless
In its moment, spun of that golden thread that unites us all.

***

This is perhaps an excessively philosophical poem.  Can you follow what it is trying to say?  It's not always easy.  Is the poem, in your reading, about some understanding or view of the world?  Or is it about a way of experiencing the world?  The poem says in its next to last stanza:
The blindfold once draped
Before my eyes begins to fall away, like cataracts, as
The white dawn of an emerging wakefulness announces itself.

What is the blindfold keeping us from seeing things correctly or fully?  And what is the emerging wakefulness that removes it?  


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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