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 ~ 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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The Hours ~ 7 Poems – Part 6 of 7



VI.

In the Wee Hours of the Morning:  Matins (2)

~Visiting a Cathedral Crypt

I strained toward You, was inconsolable.
Then I remembered to sing to You at night;
my searching Spirit talks with You in my heart.
(Ps 77:6-7)

Dear Archbishop, buried here,
Deign to humor me.  Let me ask,
When you lay down here and fell asleep
Within this crypt, sleeping the sleep

Of death, did you ever say to yourself,
“You know, I just might never
Awaken”?  “Or shall I?” you asserted
Without pause.  That I know, for

Thus we believe.”  Yes, your reply
Was confident and clear, firmly
Dismissing all doubt; and the look in
Your eyes had the smooth look of marble.

Then you added, “That’s why I chose
This very spot to lie down in death and sleep 
An impenetrable, unreachable sleep, for
In vision I saw bodies floating on air.”

You looked on in wonder as these bodies
Unwrapped themselves like woolen
Cloaks.  I will slip into mine and begin
To breathe, and out will come an infant soul.”

*

You have no need of anything but yourself
To protect you from winter’s icy grip,
Or the curvaceous breezes of summer.
Your body, when at last you awake, will find

On its lips words set to be sung.
Words of a newfound wonder at God’s golden
Sheen, it being our great hope for health and
Wholeness in the world to come.

The insufficiency of these your praises,
Exceeding both mind and mouth
Even to the point of bursting and spilling over
Like a ripe melon.  Yet this itch to speak

Torments you.  “Tell me more,” you plead
Of the wind, image of delight and
Anguish.  “I need something more,”
You exclaim in full voice, words that give

Comfort, expelled slowly, wisely, like
A long, drawn out sigh.  Look above you, your
Excellency, there like children playing
Dreams are achieving many of

Those rare moments where mystics
Appear to be swimming in an ever expanding
Ripple of prayer as though in a sea of
Self-forgetfulness.  They have opened their hearts

To the greenish glow of the water’s spiritual
Light, waving broadly as if from the bottom of
The sea, where mermen frisking court
Frisking mermaids.  Later, in exchange for

What they've been shown, these mystics
Improvise from memory images of human love
Sketched on blankness as if on blank paper:
Simple scenes of happiness after harvest,

Or the village square first bustling, then empty;
The odor of deep green deep in the forest,
And the road that climbs up the hill, then
Down; the riverbank where deer stop

In summer bending to quench their thirst,
And the river itself traced to its source in
A mirror of clear, brisk water; a hippopotamus
Yawning a great cavern of a mouth as he
Shakes himself from centuries of sleep.



Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD
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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, OCD


V.

Late at Night:  Matins (1)
~God Sends Dreams

When I lie down, my mind is filled by You
and through the night watch, I meditate on You.
(Ps 63:7)

In a first dream, I stepped into the light as if
From out of nowhere.  There before me
Was a small, waist-high, square wooden table.
Further up ahead a great, towering arch
Swept from one end to the other like a rainbow.

In the center of the table lay a large pile
Of ashes, white as ivory, that one could easily
Mistake for an arctic hare or ermine or
doll-sized Snowdrift.  “What shadowy figure
left these here?” I wondered, without hope

Of answer.  “But surely the ashes symbolize
Something,” I wisely surmised, “for it’s a dream
After all.”  So, I began to reason.  “Maybe
They're what’s left of my dry and achingly dull
Doctoral dissertation on the Elijan cycle

In 1 Kings.  Or perhaps they're what remains
Of a thick, leather-bound, vellum-paged
Volume of Cabalistic poetry delivered
To the flames.  One must, any way one can,
Protect such beauty from the wandering eyes

Of the merely curious, the Uninitiate.  Or,
As a third option, maybe I'd finally succeeded
In returning to the earth from which it came
That teeshirt of sackcloth I admittedly long ago
Stopped wearing.  And now, having become

Ash, it can better serve its true purpose.  By
Scooping up ashes by the hand loads
And letting them rain down from above,
All over my head, I can offer stark proof to
The world of the genuineness of my contrition.”

After a little reflection, though, my dream-self
Soon realized I had in life ashes Aplenty,
perduring in the taste that certain memories
Left in my mouth whenever they welled up
and forced Themselves upon me.  Perhaps

on a sleepless night, in that very moment
when the wind howls and rain Gallops by
like a horse-drawn carriage—“It's a gritty,
chalky, truly tasteless Taste that even
a pitcherful of water can't wash away.”

In my dream, then, I lifted the bowl of ashes
And held it high above my head in both hands.
But I didn’t overturn it.  Rather, I strode forth,
with a practiced solemnity, through the arch and,
before he eyes of all, entered the arena.

Which arena?  The Dreamland Arena, of course,
Which happily opened its arms to me in a
Truly splendid embrace, wide and consoling as a valley
Ringed by hills.  Thousands of breathless Faces
Were staring down at me, hushed in an unearthly hush.

*

A second dream:

Rising upward from a ridge of sand, like so many headstones looking out over the beach to the water and waves of the Gulf, was a low picket fence of sea oats, each shoot meant to memorialize a key moment from my past, one I must never forget, despite the temptation to do so.  About these moments, whenever I happened to recall this one or that, it was a sacred duty to offer up a quick prayer and let it soar heavenward on the snow white wings of a seagull.  But I often failed my duty; too often my prayers were dragged back to earth, heavy as a wagon on its way to market, loaded down with stones ground smooth and shiny as ballbearings by years of regret.

The ridge of sand, I surmised, was all that remainder of the many prayers I’d failed to say.  Or at least that's what was indicated by the voice of the dream’s emcee.  Yes, I had through the years, along with my prayers, burned piles of incense, letting it burn down to gritty ash as the fragrant smoke rose.  In this way I summoned up to consciousness my heart’s innermost whisper babbling continuously in a voice that mystics inform me ultimately has no mouth.  Its words approach and linger inside my soul, becoming silent, unheard, until they burst forth and float on the wind, awash with the outside of things, wrestling  the branches of an old oak.  

In the dream I next found myself sitting near an open window keeping a nightlong vigil, prayers snoring noisily from my throat, when all of a sudden the milky white surface of a moonlit lake shook with the barely perceptible splashing of oars and overwhelmed the sleepiness that had been gathering all around me.  Night became as clear as day, as the psalmist says, and I stood in reverence to its light.

*

My third dream was not a mindless escapade,
Easily dismissed; no, by simply plucking up
The three egret feathers—as the dream’s emcee

Informed me, his eyes glistening with a coal
Black fire—there was already in play a post-
Impressionist work of art.  My dream had

Lifted me up into the upper atmosphere,
And I was soaring.  From far below fields 
Reached up for me with their thin fingers of

Tall grass tugging at my heart strings.
Beauty, indeed, lies everywhere, I realized;
Who can walk in this dream-laden world

Without tears streaming down his cheeks?
Life has, I said as I awoke, strung blue
And yellow ribbons from the air, announcing

A boy born today; willingly, through all
These years, they inhabited my shadow
Unbeknownst, while the mystery of it

Held fast.  Now I’ve come to possess, with
The divine assistance, a deep inkling of Eden
Such as vegetarians, say, retain some faint

Racial memory of.  There, huddled in a nest
Of rich black soil, dandelions, their faces lifted
Skyward, pleading for any scrap of rain, soon
Will poke free like fledglings ready to fly.
They have come to trumpet forth a blizzard

Of seed puffs that float and hover a moment
On white wings, then hurried away.  Spring
Is toppling down all around me, my head,

My face, my eyes; each hour gathers its own
Sunlight easily.  And my spirit reborn, this time
Without blindness, pursues a new aura over all.


Written by Fr. Bonaventure Sauer, OCD

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