Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Poet and Contemplative

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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

Prayer in poetry


The Our Father Thrice Told

    1.

Father of all, who watch over all,
Though Your name catches in our throats
Whenever we call to You,
Yet You are near to us, we know,
And gladness fills our days.
May sunlight fall gently upon the earth;
May thick grass obediently spring up.

You have given us the need of bread—
Give us fields to till, harvests to reap.

We sin, as do our comrades,
Yet we seek no retribution on each other,
Praying that You, too,
Seek no retribution on us.
Help us walk uprightly, never proudly;
And since our souls are weak, unsheltered,
Protect us from summer’s heavy heat,
Winter’s bitter cold.


    2.

Father, Your loveliness is beyond measure,
Showering unnumbered riches upon us.
Let us sit today beneath Your fig tree
Conversing of Your hopes for us;
Let our hearts tremble, our souls sail skyward.

How like trusting deer we come each day
To feed from Your hand.

When in shame our spirits sink before You,
Look kindly upon us,
For we, too, look kindly on all

Whose spirits sink in shame before us.
And never forsake us, we pray,
No matter where the world may take us,
For deep in our hearts we know
That there is no saving god but You.


    3.

Holy Father, transcending all things,
Maker of the world to come,
Your words bestow silence and peace;
We hear them, our minds soar within.
Give us knowledge; let it linger long
Stretching out before us, leading us
To where You would have us go.

You feed us with Your manna
That falls freely, like grain before geese;
Yet how we flourish, even to fullness.

Mercy awaits us, if only we would step forth
From the forest’s gloom into Your sunlit meadow.
Then, as we journey on,
Let our path be always through forgiveness.
May the devouring beasts know fear of us
And run quickly away.



Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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The Ghost of Summer



~winter, Marylake

Splendor is part of it, but an elusive part, the part
Of Your absence.  The scar and sharp ache of it
Bitter and unallayed, caught in the jutting density

Of today’s cold and early darkness.  Your brief visit,
A lone sunbeam at noon, revived old memories—
Golden oldies jittering among dust motes that hover

In the air while the hour’s subtler urges wax nostalgic,
Then slink away, off into the icy cry of afternoon
As it clamps down upon sunset like a rusty hinge.

Above the lawn and veranda, the tall grass skirting
The lake, the sky allotted its incalculable size
To the working up of a uniformly weighted gray

Underbelly.  There You hid Your head, Your bright
Eyes, the sunny smile You wear, the one that goes
Tick tick all the day, like a time bomb refusing to pop.

I heard your feet thumping methodically up and down
The whole length of earth’s hard drum.  Suddenly,
You stumbled forward, falling face first like a pair of dice

On the vellum pages of a volume of sunlit poetry.
You have desired it so, wanting me to get over myself
And out into a vast romance centered on the World

To Come.  But the stone walls and red-shingled roof
Crouch down around the day’s more mundane tasks,
Boxing me in with this truly unwelcome houseguest,

My hourly inattention—that tightened knot of self-
Absorption I wear like a noose about my neck.  Oh, but
The thought of you did, like the sight of some distant

Soaring bird, release my inner visionary nature.  “Maybe,
Just maybe,” I dared to venture, “I’ll lose myself in you
After all.”  I’ll burrow into the present moment

Encasing the here-and-now.  I’ll root out the blank
Clarity of the divine buried deep in the soil of its
Own blankness.  I’ll offer You a blank stare in

Return—the one pressed repeatedly against
The invisible window of my bowled-over befuddlement.
“It really is an opening out and breathing in,” I mused.

So, let us pray:

May You nurture in me the sweep of a higher
Purpose bathed in gentle radiance.  May even
The punier tremors of my heart be absorbed

In You, all those darker hues of life’s canvas
That cling like caked mud to the boots
Of some inoperable old tree stump.  Or, on

The brighter side, that flurry of leaves fluttering
Moth-like in a sandstorm of reds and yellows—
Last season’s masterpiece of post-apocalyptic ruin.

You are within them all, autumn, winter, spring,
Flapping noiselessly—You their Rally Round
The Flag—while I who am parked in this timid

Sunlight hear Your hollow body tapping at
My eyelids, touching my days.  May Your song
Fill me, Your dead cicada, echoing on and on.




Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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The Hours ~ 7 Poems – Part 7 of 7




VII.

Early Morning:  Lauds
~Winter’s First Snowfall

Early I came to the assembly for supplication,
awaiting Your Word in response.
My eyes looked out in the morning watch,
hoping to converse on Your sayings.
(Ps 119:147-148)

And the snow as it fell settled
On the hands of the saint’s
Outstretched marble arms
Forming a kind of glove, white

On white, so delicate that even
A passing breeze could remove it.
The monastery courtyard in time
Supplied the breeze, feeling a sense

Of duty to the brassy music
The morning had summoned up
As dawn’s first trumpet blasts were
Already sparkling on the pavement

Like cut glass.  It was the same
Fanfare that had thrown itself upon
Fat spruce tree, clinging fiercely
To the tree’s prickly arms until, fine
As dust, the wind snatched it away.

*

Upon the hedges I could see,
As if on display, sheets of
White music:
  The night’s
Snowstorm, it seemed, had

Let fly a flock of moths, and
From their fuzzy, white wings
Morning’s stillness had fashioned
Long strands of melody, with

Shimmering arpeggios beneath
A sustained trill played weightlessly
—Piano music strewn like bath towels
On the off-white tiles of a floor.

The display in all its glory left me
Dumbfounded.  I slipped away,
Back into the safe harbor of
The soul’s preferred state of

Inwardness, where wonder
Acquires the new name Joy.

*

But then came the early morning
Rush of stillness overpowering me.
There hung the sight of the chapel’s
Jagged stone wall, with the heavy

Wooden presider’s chair parked
Near the altar, the thick mist of
Daylight encircling them.  Once I’d
Arisen and gingerly carried my limbs

Into the morning’s glassy rich ambit
Of bright-eyed prayer, my eyes saw
Him as if seated there before me:

He had established the pieces
Of His presence to me well before

Any question of a subsequent absence
Shuddered like winter within me.  But
It made no difference in the end; it was
Precisely this, and only this, my wonder

At things, that He depended on, having
Crafted for Himself, of all such moments
Of simple beauty, His host of playthings,
Like a set on Tinker Toys.  Thus, it would

Be my own sullenness that I’d have to
Rely on if I wanted to reinstate my
Natural sadness again.  I wished
Otherwise.  Let joy to spread

Through me almost to the point of
Popping open my heart; let me hear
His breath as it lunges from His lungs
And rumbles off like a herd of buffalo.



Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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Dragonflies Everywhere



Dragonflies Everywhere
~while in the woods at Marylake

Oh, what a wide-eyed hive
Of God’s teeming masses hastens
Towards me and away.  I’m trying
To piece them together,
But what a tangle of bent and brawling light,
These bodies iridescent as glass.

Each has its own purpose, yet
All a common purpose—to lapse back
Into chaos, then break forth again,
Volcanically, issuing cries of rebirth
And fashioning of themselves a flock as sharp
And gritty as a desert wind.

Things may have changed little since the days
Of that first throng of
Newborn, all those who long ago
Unfurled bewilderment to the ceaseless
Hunger of birds.  But this mob
Of dragonflies delighting me today

Has evolved considerably, surpassing its
Ancestors in love of dance,
Where every hesitation allowed
Breeze or cloud
Falls like a booster rocket unbuckled
In flight as off to the stars we go.

My amazement branches out.  Even
The idea of such vitality spins
Within me, flickering like a
Silver dollar in sunlight.  I’m off
Through a world the size of
Whose radiance inches ever onward.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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