Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

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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

The Hours ~ 4 Poems - Part 4


IV.

Nightfall:  Compline

~The Dark Presence of the Divine

You will light my candle, Lord, my God;
You will enlighten my darkness.
With your help I can run the race;
With your help, my God, I can leap over a wall.
            (Ps 18:29-30)


    1.

A sudden gust of blackbirds awakens,
Rising as one thing, a sphere, and rolling off across
The cornfields to the far horizon; somewhere

A bell is pounding, fist against palm, insistent as
The unwearied heart of the sea surging against rock.
Nature's mood, alas, has darkened suddenly,

From joy to sorrow, then on to a restless,
Anxious melancholy fed on thoughts of lost love,
Of love lost long, long ago.  As night descends

You come looking for me.  You want to exalt
My heart, You say, by throwing it far away
To where the smooth path of the arching sky topples

In a really bad fall, hard against the skin of night’s
Diamond-encrusted fruit.  Meanwhile,
With its usual tenderness the moon steps forth

From its penthouse of thin clouds and begins
Slowly lowering its wispy armor to us
On long silvery wires.  Tonight, with its civilities

On full display, I see how it's trying to imitate for us
The descent to street level of those who normally
Inhabit the high boardrooms of the Seraphim.

It’s their duty to visit this human scene, and tonight
We watch as they settle in among the poplars
Bunched together in the form of a distant grove.


    2.

Yours is a simple plenitude of being,
Pulling the stars along in Your wake and drawing
From me an admission that, when I first

Saw You, I knew nothing of why You had
Stooped down to me; I lowered my head
At the time, staring down at my feet,

And let my body slump into itself,
Holding on to my bones as if for dear life.
Thus did I survive the encounter while, later,

Seated on a park bench, knowing how You had
Leaped trees and tall buildings to reach me—
Riding the ripples of the Spirit's far-swimming

Roar—I heard You nearby miming the gong
Of a truly thunderous silence.  Long ago,
Echoing endlessly everywhere, the Spirit had

Likewise heralded the Messiah’s birth.
“But it was easier for you then," I mused;
“With but one stride, You were there beside her."

Yet still tonight the brisk air offers no resistance,
Its heart, like mine, having little substance
Of its own to oppose You with.  What strength

It does have will, in due time, be displaced
By a flurry of unremembered dreams.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD
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