Discalced Carmelite Friars

Province of St. Therese

Provincial Blog

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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 ~ 7 Poems – Part 5 of 7

Initially, I wrote 4 poems for the collection called The Hours. Since the publication of those four poems, I have written three more– The Hours has now been expanded to comprise 7 poems in all.– Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCDV.Late at Night:  Matins (1)~God Sends DreamsWhen I lie down, my mind is filled by Youand through the night watch, I meditate on You. (Ps 63:7)In a first dream,
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Conjuring Up the Eternal – Part 7 of 7

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The City and Beyond ~ Four Poems – Part 4

At Home~central IllinoisI've reentered the land of cornfields.No pioneer trail preceded me here, onlyA magic carpet of golden corn husksAnd the wind-swept linen of a clear blue sky.There is just one way for me to returnTo a life lived among shattered sidewalksWhere the city's tangled paths twist and turn,And that way is forever closed to me.I lounge, rather, in the shade of an oak treeHoarding the
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The City and Beyond ~ Four Poems – Part 3

Passing Through~Beale Street, Memphis, USAOh, what madness there is in the steely voiceOf an upright piano pounding levies like a swollen river.What pings of glee spring from the sleek body ofAn electric guitar and bounce off walls like popcorn.The dirge-like wailing of a tenor sax becomes a butterflyAnd flits away, sipping flowers up and down the whole lengthOf the street.  Yes, Beale Street,
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The City and Beyond ~ Four Poems – Part 2

Pasqueflower in the rain II.Sunday Morning~MarylakeSnails, slugs, earthworms crowd the flowerbed's wet floor.Clouds, spun of glass, are set out like bowls filled with melon.A stray thought passes, maybe one about Mary as she stoopsTo kiss the cold lips of her son, or about the wreathThat enfolded the prayer she then whispered.Rich rye bread for breakfast and, later, icy lemonade,After a brisk walk. 
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THE CITY AND BEYOND ~ Four Poems – Part 1

I.Nightfall~DallasSomehow, once I'd climbed out of the wellOf late afternoon,I found it there, set out on a plate,Still fresh after waiting all this timeFor me to arrive.  Yes, evening was offering itselfTo me like a blueberry muffin, with itsPurplish inner auraThat leaves a stain on the tongue.Never would I have asked anything more of youTo prove that you still, that you have always cared,O my
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Poems for the New Year – Part 4

IV.On Being BaptizedIn time I learned how to write of the sea.  Or, better,Of the wave that carried me out to sea.  Its warmChurning sound called me to the window.  I looked outAnd, behold, there it was, the wave gathering in the distance.I watched it roll in, utterly spellbound by the sight.Should I call to it, I wondered?  But before I could speakIt raised a cry of its own. 
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Three Christmas Poems – Part 1

I.Winter SolsticeThe day of your arrival is built on an impending darkness,On a cold that stabs and stabs as it lifts its cry.  See the splinters of frostLying strewn on the lawns and sidewalks, tracing a prickly pathThat the wind follows, eyes sightless,Eye sockets hollow.  Townsfolk hurry by as the wind slides on ahead, outOver the lake, flat on its belly.There, as if from a dark mirror,
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Five Advent Poems – Part 4

IV.At the Deathbed of St. John of the CrossAnd when you died, we felt your hands trembling in ours; or was it our handsTrembling in yours?  The night had won through to us and stoopedAt the door like some beast come home to its cave; we heard itPurring contentedly--the fireplace ablaze, logs aflame.Maybe it was just your last, strangely tender breathing we heardSpread through the room like sleeping
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Five Advent Poems – Part 2

II.John the Baptist - Winter MeditationsIf You Lord had been here to hear my cryAnd give breath to my roaring,Your love wrapped in thick leather straps about my heart,Then I wouldn't now need You quite so much to call my soul backFrom its weariness.  Oh, silence to silence I advance towards blindness.My eyes are sunken, sunless, the eyes of winter. *Day has passed over into night.  Chill
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Five Advent Poems – Part 1

I.The World a Chapel (1)We live amid song, and it’sUsually joyful.  The sun comes up,Birds cry out, we’re startled by it.Can it be that the world itselfAwakens us?  That it's been granted this powerOf its own, renewed each dayAs night passes like the shadow of GodAnd we return to ourselves?  We wake,We hear the windBrushing the windowpane, a tree limbIn its hand, like the
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At Day's End

~after a conference on St. ThereseWe knocked at the door.  Did she answer?A sprinkle of rain brightened the streets,The trees, the lawns, the sidewalks--The city shone, and her eyes everywhereLooked out as if from behind a window.Hardly daring a smile, she turned and hid.In time a rainbow appeared, traced backTo her open hands . . . She had tossedA white dove in the air and said:  Be free,Free
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God's Mercy, and Beauty – Part 2 of 2

  It is important to remember that beauty is not an attribute that simply adheres to or belongs to a thing—be it a natural object or scene, or a person, or a work of art.  Beauty, rather, is a moment of revelation.  We grasp it, it grasps us.  It is born of an interplay between our interior awareness and this something or someone, which interplay ends up bestowing on
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Listening Deeply

        First, I will quote a couple of lines from a poem by Jessica Powers (who in Carmel was known as Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, OCD):        Music by right is for the solitaries         whom a long silence trains to the profound.        The lines are
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Prayer and Sabbath Rest - Part 1

        You might think I've been on sabbatical these past few months, and you'd have good reason, given my absence from this blog.  But I haven't.  Nonetheless, I have been learning something in my absence, something valuable.  And here's what I've learned.  It's difficult to keep a blog going when you're on the road for long stretches of time. 
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What is Contemplation? -- Contemplation as Experience and as Prayer

        One can have contemplative experiences in ways not explicitly religious, although most of us would still consider such experiences spiritual, using that word to describe them, and making a distinction between the spiritual and the religious. (As an aside, I would draw the line of this distinction somewhat in this way, namely, that the spiritual is a dimension of
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What is Contemplation? -- a Recap

        There are, I think it safe to say, only a few out there in cyber-land who've been wondering what's become of this blog these past couple of months.  Maybe it's dried up under the summer sun and withered on the vine--or so a few of you might have been wondering.  Well, be that as it may, among the possible few who perhaps have been so wondering I
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The Main Course--What is Contemplation? (Part Two)

St. John of the Cross        I've somewhat lost my train of thought in these reflections on the topic of contemplation which I've been pursuing, or have meant to be pursuing, in this blog.  No matter.  I'm not going to go back and try to recover it.  Instead, I'll forge ahead.        What, then, is contemplation? 
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The Main Course—What is Contemplation? (Part One)

       There is a poem by Denise Levertov--an English poet who spent much of her life in the US, and who died in 1997 at the age of 74—which was written towards the end of her life, and which gives expression to a truth of the human spirit gained through a lifetime of poetic practice.  The poem is entitled “Sojourns in the Parallel Word," and in part it
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part Three

    In my previous post on the poem The Dark Night I recounted the simple story of a lovers tryst, told by the woman, which the poem narrates.  But, in doing so, I omitted one key stanza, the central one, which lies at the heart of the poem, namely, stanza 5.  It reads:Night that guided me,Night lovelier than the dawn,O Night that unitesThe lover and beloved,Beloved made one
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Poetry - 3rd in a Series

Nightfall    1.The moon is full, wedged in at the top of the hill.Its floodgates open, and the goldenLandscape of day recedesReceiving a river of innocence and awe.A silver age follows, An age of journeys into the night.Tall trees sway and wave us on, stirred by the wakeful dead.There is something miraculousIn the way we do not doubtThese moments are truthful and good.   
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part Two

       How does one express in poetry the experience of divine love?  One can try to do so directly, by using direct statement, and writing explicitly religious verse.  St. John of the Cross adopts this approach, and accomplishes it masterfully, in his poem The Living Flame of Love.       But usually this approach—to capture
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Poems for Holy Week - 4 of 4

What the Angels SangAnd then he will send out the angels and gather his electfrom the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.    ~Mk 13:27If we were to start to tell their names, so many,One by one, the sky would soon fill with light, the treesAwaken, and the air wrap itself in folds of woolRound the rows of houses standing out in the cold.Soon it would happen .
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Poems for Holy Week - 3 of 4

At the Burial of Jesus You went and the hilltop shuddered, loosed of its burden.The air tastes of salt, here so very far from the sea.It is strange.  The waves are churning, the tide rolls in,The sun sets; very quietly and hastily we finish.Each goes off to his own house.  We do not say Good-bye.  Shall we meet again tomorrow?When we had sealed the tomb, when everyone living at that
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Poems for Holy Week - 2 of 4

At the CrossYour hands and arms are thrown wide, For you are trying to stand very still; there’s not much earthLeft to you, and what is burns like a torch.Smoke curls upward and disappears:We watch the day end.  Night droops like a tent; we tie down the flap.Now we must let our talk expand, let our dreams roam wide,Then return, stepping forth into the light.  We seeThe thought of them
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Poems for Holy Week - 1 of 4

Good Friday    1.The sun sets slowly, an eyeball of wrath, unblinking; Dogs begin to bark.  In a far corner of the worldA watchman ceremoniously lowers a flag and folds itFor the night.  He has done this before;He will do it this last time.  Then the long farewell Will have ended.  He who once was among us will have gone.    2.The wind picks up and
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Poetry - 2nd in a Series

Previously, I submitted two poems posted on our provincial blog, the Discalced Carmelite Friars - Province of St. Therese.  As part of the re-organization of our blogs, those two poems are being moved to this blog, Poet and Contemplative, as part of a Poetry series. Here is the second poem.  A short interpretive note follows.  Into AfternoonWe knew all along about the shadows, howThey
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Poetry - First in a Series

My intention is, from time to time, to submit poems I’ve written and have them posted on this blog, Poet and Contemplative. Previously, I submitted two poems to the Discalced Carmelite Friars - Province of St. Therese Blog. In re-organizing the blogs of our province, those two poems are now being moved to this one. Here is the first. For those of you who enjoy poetry, I hope they will speak
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A First Serving (the poem The Dark Night)--Part One

        I've been speaking in the opening three posts of this blog—which I've called, "Setting the Table"—about the act of creation, both divine and human.  But I’ve been doing so in much too abstract a way.  It's time to get specific and look at a particular instance of, in this case, poetic creation—a well-known instance, the poem
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Setting the Table—Part Two

        The following lines are from a poem by Kathleen Raine, a British poet and scholar who died in 2003:    And must I then take pity on    The raging of the storm    That rose up from the great abyss    Before the earth was made,    That pours the stars in cataracts    And
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Setting the Table—Part One

        How a poem gets written varies from poet to poet, even from poem to poem.  Yet across the board there must be something mysterious about the process.  Why does the poet decide on just this particular word rather than another, although both appear, at least at first, to work equally well?  Why does the poet choose this image or metaphor or particular
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