Officium Horarum

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Somewhere someone has said: to go
where it is difficult,
and therefore painful,
and therefore necessary
– this is the office of the poet

Yes, yes: the torment; storm’s wauling
and reel; the intensity we are so willing
to make of suffering (as if it needed more)…

All that.

But what, say you, of the dishes
presently requiring your attention?
What of heat in summer,

plodding, oafish?

You will say: “empty”
You will say: “meaningless”

Just so.

But that is the task,
is it not?

Winemaking

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“If a jar of wine is left in place a long time, the wine in it becomes clear, settled and fragrant.”

– Evagrius Ponticus

For a long time now:
No words.
Not the color or the
Warmth of them
Even, what we would say
In them swirls fragrantly,
Fills them up 

And learning:
Not the silence
We run from, so much
As the bitterness it contains

Too: That not until you’ve
Harvested its jagged fruit from
The impossible rock, pressed
Its singular flavor from
The faceless, unyielding sky, and
Set it to age all winter long
In the stillness beneath
The earth,
Do you realize: Black,
Not the absence of color,
But a refulgence thereof

One Morning after Rainfall in July

Little things that touch me now:

The mesquite at the head of the yard,
Gathering the whole of it into its bosom
So, like a mother

Garden post protruding, lazy-eyed,
Unworkable, from the fencing it was
Made to support, saying,

            “This is who I am,” and
            “Now love me for it”

And the sparrows at my feet, little busybodies,
How they work the earth,
Singing like harvesters at field;

And lastly: that solitary dove atop the phone wire —
I think she must know me, judging
By the way she gazes at me now…

Perhaps this quiet, cool morning,
Damp with last night’s showers,
Offers some measure of solace for all

Whom life would seem to have abandoned,
Some respite for hearts haggard
With hardship and the strain of living

Trying to Justify It, if Possible

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He wonders whether
Or not it is enough to
Admit simply that the blood
In him
Is thrilling because
It is July in the desert
And the rains are coming

Questions whether
Or not he has to attempt 
To put to into words how the gathering clouds will 
Exalt into a column over the horizon
And become heavy with
A darkness that hovered
Once over the face of
The Deep

Or whether it is necessary
To elaborate on how the desert would
Not be the stage it is, upon which
The Powers play,
Were it any less empty

Or even to go into
How the best music
Has ever been that ceaseless
Call-and-response between harshness
And beauty, Life and
Death —

Difficulty measuring it all
Up, because he feels so very small,
In the face of it 

On the Margins, Beauty

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“…for Christ plays in ten thousand places,                                                                                                                     Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his.                                                                                                                         To the Father through the features of men’s faces.”

– From “As Kingfishers Catch  Fire,” Gerald Manley Hopkins 

 

Go to where the secure, for security’s sake,
have banished the seedy and the unseemly,
the crooked and the vile: God’s maimed ones

Go to where sleazies
settle, hustlers
hustle, and beggars do their begging

Go to where hope’s outskirts border wastelands of despair,
where the well-to-do have discarded
The disfigured children of their lust and ambition: 

The groaning, wandering forgotten,
who celebrate their eternal scrap-metal Shakkot upon
the coiling, roaming dusts –

The dispensable,
unavoidable holocausts
of the dreams and successes of a few…

Go there, to the margins,
and find your beauty.
For the face of the Lord shines in sodden faces
and in dirty places

Scenery of the Heart

All spoke
Longing, world’s
Mother-tongue – confided
It softly, in whispers;
All, in short, was the
Scenery of the heart: First,
The iron-work door, deep and
Ponderous – over there;
Then the sill, yonder: an eternal blue;
Next, visible through the window,
The birds: their
Song what
In me was unsingable…
And finally, the vintage divan,
Redolent of seasons passing
– Just opposite:
Scrolled feet, from the deepest
Core of some ancient oak;
And the upholstery,
Resounding, as of the sea…

Yes. They were your eyes. All the color
Of rest and repose not yet attained.

Everything
Was everything
In me
And a vision
Of you,
Beyond all telling,
Past all guessing,
Further than the far side
Of all previous imagining;
A gift that made me to remember
What I had never,
And yet have always,

Felt…

Generously

Faces
Opening doors
Which they themselves
Are incapable of
Answering:

Not to languish
There, in the wishing
Differently
Or wresting otherwise —

But to abide,
Praising it,
With unclenched hands that
Loosen, like
Sails, upon
The welcoming wind;

And to move freely
Within the guilelessly
Unattainable, content
With how
What flows forth
Generously,
Generously recedes

Pyrophobia

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To stand in the center of one’s own nothingness in solitude before God is like attempting to hold one’s hand over a flame: it is nearly impossible to remain there for more than a few seconds without being overwhelmed by the pain and then withdrawing back to safety, where things are more comfortable. But go there we must. We have to lose ourselves in the furnace of this nothingness – and die. Trusting, of course, that we will be born again, and continually reborn, in the Spirit. 

Our Own False Light

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Addiction to the whirling often induced by love, but which is not love. And to your own understanding and perception of things, which is so limited – Let go of all of it . Truly, truly, it is really just a clinging to your own false light.

Step out over the edge of the precipice and into the Mystery – Behold! You are still walking…

Abide humbly in the Silence – Behold! It is a really a chorus of angels…

And above all, allow the pain to overwhelm you at times, swallow you whole, like the whale. God’s holy ones are precisely those who abandon themselves to this great process, this great, eternal working. They relinquish themselves up to ever greater, ever wider, ebbs and flows, falling in love, even, with the stretching, the hollowing out, the dying and the rising again.

The “old man” in us always wants to contain the pain, hoping (vainly) that in so doing we will not have to die. But what we are invited to is precisely to die – to relinquish, not to contain. And so remember: “All manner of things shall be well, all manner of things shall be well.” This is the madness of the Peace to which we are called, and it takes root it in the depths of our being in proportion to the depths of our darkness, and uncertainty.     

True Romantics

The saints are the greatest romantics of all history: They take the greatest risks in the name of Love. They live and die only for Love. So too is it with their longing: It can’t be contained or encompassed, only deepened into ever widening vistas.