“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
The Hours ~ 4 Poems – Part 1
Fri, May 18 2018
~Night Lingers On
Among the watchers for the dawn,
Lord, I am yearning for Your Grace
to end my darkness.
I was, early in life, of two minds
About the sheer sweep of the night sky,
Something in the way the stars winked at me
Even as the looming emptiness around them
Took aim. The Divine Artist had let dribble
A drizzle of white paint across His
Otherwise limitless black canvas. Maybe I
Should have sought merely to admire
His work's unblemished beauty. Instead,
I looked for, but never found,
A higher meaning behind such breathlessness.
If only I had, from the first, been content
Simply to let myself look up in wonder
At the utter grandeur of it all—of this His
Creatio ex nihilo—as both the child and child-like
Among us so easily succeed in doing.
Early each morning the portly silhouette
Of the billowy beech tree out front
Presses itself flat against the first flush of dawn,
And a sketch of the tree, drawn with a No.1 pencil,
Lounges a moment on the lawn, torn
From a shadowy sketchbook. Soon everything
Starts to take shape, insisting on its right
To be. I look out the window; strangely my heart
Grows a tad uncertain about the emerging day.
Perhaps if I whistle a tune to myself in the half-light:
—"How sweet and sour my soul is today,” the
Mockingbird sings, mimicking my song.
“How mixed up I am amid all the delicate breezes
That stir within the world's great dream of day
Nudging me awake. Look, outside something’s
Tumbling down, something that resembles
Volcanic ash, or maybe a flurry of goose feathers
Tossed about on a gust of grumpy old air only just now
Awakened. Soon, fine-tuned to perfection,
This first sign of day will stretch from one end
Of the sky to the other, its wingspan vast
As the soul’s in flight." Yep, sure enough, of a sudden
Dawn leaps fully into view, the size
Of a giant flamingo standing straight and tall.
"Oh, what a burden its spindly legs must bear”—
I think referencing dawn's pinkish hue,
But also the lumbering, top-heavy weight
Of the flightless day that must surely follow.
From beneath earth’s wormy soil—raised to new life
And become a block of red-brick bungalows
Set back from the street—the green
Of morning’s ever verdant dew bubbles up,
Oozing forth like the Holy Ghost
And flooding each square inch of lawn.
Eying such a miracle I'm willing to surrender
Every wish I once may have had to feel something
Of the sap of a primal agelessness coursing
Through my soul. I'm ready to grow old,
I say to myself, though not yet ready to die.
"If I'd been present from the first day of our race,”
I fantasize, letting the idea of agelessness
Overwhelm this poem—“If I'd been present
To witness Lucifer's precipitous fall
And monitor through millennia his influence
Over us as his blackened soul cozies up to
Ours and wraps itself in a tight knot
About our morally more ambiguous exaltations;
Then I would, at the choicest of times, have seen fit
To journey forth across the wastes of, let us say,
The Mojave Desert, there where the need of mercy,
Like a savage thirst sipped at again and again
At each step, causes the lips, door
Of all speech, to crack and bleed and blister.
But nothing of the sort would ever stop me.
I'd struggle steadily on, prying open
My speechlessness so as to rail madly, like one lost
To fever, in the words of this or that favored
Psalm. All the while my eyes, clinched tight,
Would closely scan the dry-as-dust earth,
With its twisted trees and crumbled, chalky rocks
Huddled at their feet. Constantly I’d be combing
The landscape looking for any glint, large or small,
Of Lucifer’s fiery glass eye . . .”—Yes, it was thus
That I fantasized, pretending I was some sort
Of Elijah-like figure, my heart full of fire
And supremely confident in its inspirations.
But then, alas, the fantasy burst into flame
And, placing my hands before my eyes, I fashioned
An impromptu blindfold to shield my sight
From the assaults of the sun's blaring
Brass band bleating its harsher dissonances
At me, taunting me mercilessly—“The fact
That you live a half-baked life,” it sneered,
“Something you yourself freely admit—
Your life embedded as much in darkness
As in light—it puts the lie to this fantasy
Of heroic sanctity you so cherish. Indeed,
The present state of your lounging conscience
Fits you just fine, like an old pair of shoes.
There's no need to rethink the many mitigations
Of rule and norm you've adopted through the years.
In fact, you sort of prefer it this way, right?
It’d hobble you to the point of permanent paralysis
Were you to try to don a morally more constrained
Pair of slippers. And what, I ask you, would be
The point of that? One's got to live, right? So,
Be happy; enjoy yourself, presume on God’s mercy.”
I rise early. Dawn breaks in upon the brittle
Morning air, softening it, warming it up,
Reshaping it slightly. Consciousness
Struggles free from my heart like a boy scout
Wriggling out of his sleeping bag. My body,
For its part, carries me out to where
All can decipher in my stooped shoulders
The perfect posture of a knowledgeable soul.
Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD