Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Poet and Contemplative

“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

Seven Conversation Poems – Part 6


VI.

Recurring Dreams

I am lying still, buried in deep grass, and a herd of buffalo
Flows towards me on the plain, then parts like water
On either side of rock. My peace is so profound
That their own impenetrable gaze and heavy tread

Respect me as a brother, as a god perhaps. And so, like a god,
I sleep. Then, suddenly, I wake; what holds me here
Releases me as well—the world flitting upward like a lark,
And me following after, riding my astral body—
                                      It’s my belief
That dreaming is the one sure hold I have on life; it is what 
Gives my soul its body, like an earthy tangle of roots buried deep
Beneath the blue and white blossoms that nightly spring up.

*

Thus, it’s the love that cradles me here that desires it just so,
My mind still and ready to dream, my body inwardly abuzz
Day returns to me, a clump of throaty clarinets floating above
The slow, funereal pulse of a bass drum, and, detaching themselves,

Violins hurrying off on the gravelly purr of a Pontiac. Suddenly,
A prophet steps forth and begins to proclaim what tomorrow
May bring—a future dressed in its robe of invisibility. If I hesitate,
It is lost.

           No matter. The dream slides in and out of being,
Like deer in hunting season. Tonight when the stars come home,
Twinkling like the cowbells that announce their return—
“It’s late,” they’ll say. “Let the life that holds you here
Release you from its spell; let it flood your brain like lazy rivers

Emptying into the sea”—
                      A scene of knotted streets opens
Miraculously; stern-faced strangers nervously happen by. We
Stumbled upon each other. “He’s not capable of much,”
They think to themselves. “Yet God has given him so much.

See how it falls from between his fingers.” In my defense 
I tell them that it’s always been this way, that, seemingly,
It can be no other—“for thus am I guaranteed a life
Worth living.”
             —I resume my dream’s business; the others
Resume theirs. We’ll join up later, once daylight strikes. 

Written by Fr. Bonaventure, OCD
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Seven Conversation Poems – Part 5


V. 

Life Lessons 

I used to do all kinds of things for the first time. The heart hid,
Trying not to hammer too loudly its thump, thump, thump
Into the air, though unable not to—it was, after all, my heart. 
* 
I stop for gas in a small Nebraska town, and You are there,
Passing into the afternoon. I see Your backside like 
A boarded-up house. At that instant the moment became itself. 
* 
I used to think that I had to keep chasing such moments,
Hoping to find each one in turn, like clues on a treasure map.
I had to advance into life, since life was a journey, and I 
Was traversing its lonesome highway. Of course, I wasn’t
Particularly good at it. My soul seemed always uncertain
What it was You were asking of me; and so I had to supply 
The whole spectrum of intensities—from beaten-down
browns
And bold blues, to blustery yellows and fig-leaf greens, 
From sheets of ragged red at sunset to threads of silvery sheen 
Soon thereafter. Now I’m content just to have arrived,

This briefest of moments, precisely where You are, passing
Into the afternoon, as the moment becomes itself unscathed.

*

It’s okay with me, now that I know it was always going to be okay,
As if the wheat fields and highways of Nebraska have at long last
Unburdened themselves of some message they’ve been wanting

These many years to tell me. Oh, it may take from my life
The excitement of worrying about how it will turn out; but there is
Still wonder to be had, and the beauty this world carries about
Like a boat at sea. 

                                    —Wind combs the cottonwood, its tresses
Sprayed with green paint. Soon the city will encroach on us,
A worn, frayed carpet stretched to the rim of the world. 

Even here I hear You, though. You’re telling me about
The breeze that night stirring at the edge of town, of how it
Suddenly grew chill and began to sting. I returned home

A bit shaken inside, hollow as an English horn. Today You’ve
Come to speak with compassion about these things long ago. 

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

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Seven Conversation Poems – Part 4



IV.

Ready for Omnipotence 

The sun is sinking as the earth, far away, receives it;
The two recede still further, off into darkness. Dusk
Floats upward, weightless, happy, a last breath
Mixing with the freedom of the stars. Time expires 

Into timelessness, and we feel it, this departure—
Like the lifting of August that is September, 
Like the vastness of young love that is the night.



One wave of my hand and, presto, there you are,
Willed into being—you who are forever, O Night,
Blind to me here beneath you. I want nothing 
But for you to be yourself and nothing else; and if
You were ever to see me, could you still be yourself

High above and without me? But you must be
Without me, existing before me, abiding eternally,
So that I might come to behold you and will you
Just so—for that is the one task assigned me tonight.

*

As a child I used to believe I could think things away;
I could think poof, and they’d be gone. (Oh, I don’t

Remember actually believing this, although I must have
At some point or other; magical thinking does have

Its draw, and we all give it a try, from time to time,
Just to see how it feels when it fails to work.). So, then,

To will it away and wish it dead, gone for good; or
To will it alive, a living, breathing thing, to will it just so––


If in time I chose the latter for pretty much everything,
Was it just because it works, other approaches proving
Futile? Or was there something more at stake, something
Truly worth choosing? Was the possibility kept from me, 

The possibility of omnipotence—kept safe like an
Inheritance—till I should learn to choose acceptance,
Always and everywhere, having no other option. Then,
Once omnipotence was finally handed over to me, 

Like a key to a cabin in the woods—to will it away,
Whatever it might be, to say sayonara, goodbye—
Or to will it just so, all of it, precisely—after a lifetime

I knew what to do, and, with little fanfare, I did it.

Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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Seven Conversation Poems - Part 3





    III.

Musings on Mortality


At first I thought—Death shall have the sensation of falling,
And as the dark rises to catch me, closing in around me,
Who can say what awaits below?  It could go on like this,
With me toppling head over heels, for a very long time,

Till the sheer loneliness of it all destroyed me, or the fear
Of the inexorable thud and sudden, all-consuming pain,
Which I’d have to keep pushing from my mind, finally
Overmastered me—like an ear-worm driving me mad.

    *

Then I thought—Death will be like having no say in the matter,
Whatever the matter is, and whatever it isn’t; nothing I say
Or do will make the least bit of difference.  Implacability
Will have taken hold, along with a helplessness pressing

The eternal question against my soul—who’s in charge here?
Who can save me?  Everything I have ever learned,
The whole viability motif that this organism supporting
My brain has sought with single-minded focus to master,

It will all desert me.  And it’s only fanciful to think that
I could ever freely choose to empty myself, handing myself
Over to death in a gesture of total self-renunciation.
The thought does huddle in my mind.  But wouldn’t it be

Just one more last ditch effort to reassert control, believing
It is I, this thing that I am, who does the renouncing, right?

    *

And so I thought—Maybe that’s how the Creator wants it,
A kind of perfecting of our freedom, long years in the making.
Beneath the invisible breeze of His love for us, unwavering
In its vastness, patiently coaxing us along, long-suffering,

But doggedly determined, death shall have the significance
Of making us infantile again, only this time with awareness,
Willing its helplessness as a prelude to rebirth.
                                                                                          Therefore,
I thought—Death shall have the sensation of waking up
To the fact that all my needs have been abundantly met.

Cast far away is the fear of being left behind, forsaken
On the treeless plain, alone in the tall grass, with the lion
Crouching near.  It took eons to instill that fear, so deep
That only death can destroy it.  And yet, behold, it is gone.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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