Sunday, October 30, 2005


it has been a while. but i am here. reading. writing. thinking. praying. mostly trying to keep up with the laundry and be true to my family. the rest is tabled for another day. if you make it through the quote below i shall reward you with a poem, may it be worthy of your time.

the book which has found its way to me (through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, past the goblin city), is The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross:

Even though these souls have begun to walk along the road of virtue, and our Lord desires to place them in the dark night so they may move on to the divine union, they do not advance. Sometimes, the reason is, they do not want to enter the dark night or allow themselves to be placed in it, and sometimes they misunderstand themselves and are without suitable or alert directors who will show them the way to the summit. God gives many souls the talent and grace for advancing, and should they desire to make the effort they would arrive at this high state....

For some spiritual directors are likely to be a hindrance and harm rather than a help to these souls that journey on this road. Such directors have neither enlightenment nor experience of these ways. They are like the builders of the tower of Babel. [Gen 11:1-9] When these builders were supposed to provide the proper materials for the project, they brought entirely different supplies, because they failed to understand the language. And thus nothing was accomplished. Hence, it is arduous and difficult for a soul in these periods of the spiritual life when it cannot understand itself or find anyone else who understands it.

It will happen that while an individual is being conducted by God along the sublime path of dark contemplation and aridity, in which he feels lost, he will encounter in the midst of the fullness of his darknesses, trials, conflicts, and tempations someone who, in the style of Job's comforters [Jb 4:8-11], will proclaim that all of this is due to melancholia, or depression, or temperament, or to some hidden wickedness, and that as a result God has forsaken him. Therefore the usual verdict is that, since such trials afflict this person, he must have lived an evil life.

5. Others will tell him that he is falling back, since he finds no satsifaction or consolation as he previously did in the things of God. Such talk only doubles the trial of the poor soul, because its greatest suffering is caused by the knowledge of its own miseries; that it is full of evil and sin is as clear as the day, and even clearer, for, as we shall presently say, God is the author of this enlightenment in the night of contemplation. And when this soul finds someone who agrees with what it feels (that these trials are all its own fault), its suffering and distress grow without bounds. And this suffering usually becomes worse than death. Such a confessor is not satisfied with this but, in judging these trials to be the result of sin, he urges souls who endure them to go over their past and make many general confessions--which is another crucifixion. The director does not understand that now perhaps is not the time for such activity. Indeed, it is a period for leaving these persons alone in the purgation God is working in them, a time to give comfort and encouragement that they may desire to endure this suffering as long as God wills, for until then, no remedy--whatever the soul does, or the confessor says--is adequate.

my friends, how these words soothe my soul. i had begun to tremble at my state. at the darkness of the things, which for some time now, seem to be the only things i can comprehend. i can fathom. john comforts me by saying death to sense is the first death. i hope this explains what i have been struggling dumbly in my poetry to state (from a source hopefully more reliable than i).

(formatting lost)

tryst with saint john

come to me tonight
___in quietness
your words graven
___long ago
you're dead these many years
___and counting
i am here feeling closer
___to you than any
___living soul
who lightens my
illumines my burden
___having borne it before
the beggar, i
___go door to door
___shunned by all
save you.
___here you are, with me
___now whispering words
___of comfort penned
______ages ago.

Friday, October 21, 2005

time travel

today i journey back and forward into time. i go to see friends i have not seen, some in nearly ten years. people who know me, who have read me since i was eight years old. some who were there with me through my darkest days of high school when friends were few. true friends. those who cared more for your soul than their use of you. those who wept with me over ice cream at our shared impotence to change the way things seemed to be. those who listened and understood. those who through the years have strengthened me with their love.

it is not that i fear welcome, or that there will be none. i fear that the long years of our separation may have been enough for the masks to take on some permanence between us. i wonder if these dear friends will let the facades of life, the striving for the right words, the smiling pride of success dominate our time together. or if, they will let me back in to their hearts.

will we sit, worlds apart across the tables. speaking in veiled terms about the periphery of our lives? or will we dive in deep and share the anguish, the joy, the muckiness of life that soils our feet.

after the chit chat will the dialogue resume? after the smiling and polite introduction to the children who have come along in the long years which have separated us, will there be a knitting of hearts? am i unreasonable to desire this? am i demanding more of a long time friend than i require of those that inhabit my daily sphere? i think not.

but i have learned to let things die when the other party wishes it to be so. i have long ceased chasing down people, tackling them, and dragging them back into my life.

i do not enjoy watching friends walk away for the last time. but i also do not care for first time encounters, they are awkward in their own way. unfamiliarity is a necessary evil.

so as i journey back to pick up where we last met and spoke and looked into each other's eyes, i wonder if we'll journey forward. or if we'll abandon the pursuit. either way is fine, i prefer to go forward. but know present disinterest does not glut the past of its value. and that gives me hope.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

lectio divina

my time for reading is so sparse (not according to my husband, but to me), that i must prayerfully consider each book read, each word noted, each author i give my time to. for those authors enter into my life and pour themselves out as i pour myself out in lectio divina, or scriptural reading. reading can be, according to keating, a method of contemplation, and i employ it regularly. it is my greatest diversion and my greatest necessity. my words have long since failed me (my journals pecked with a few original poems, but largely full of nouwen, manning, foster, and now norris).

i am finding a longing for discovering the mysteries of the catholic church. iconography. liturgy. vespers. how to incorporate these many practices into my fragmented life.

i had been concerned with my seeming darkness, how the same haunting doubts linger, as have always lingered. but then i read this from no less than henri nouwen:

Today, my fifty-fourth I reflect on my life today, I feel indeed like the least of God's holy people. Looking back, I realize that I am still struggling with the same problems I had on the day of my ordination twenty-nine years ago. Notwithstanding my many prayers, my periods of retreat, and the advice from many friends, counselors, and confessors, very little, if anything, has changed with regard to my search for inner unity and peace. I am still the restless, nervous, intense, distracted, impulse-driven person I was when I set out on this spiritual journey. At times this obvious lack of inner maturation depresses me as I enter into the "mature" years.

all is not lost. this is not the party line i have heard in church. it is not the standard i see being raised. this path of "downward mobility" as nouwen puts it, does not start, as i have been lead to believe with pristine saints (which i have NEVER been).

there is hope. for me and for you.


Monday, October 10, 2005


apparently it doesn't take much to drive me back to melancholy. my friends are so happy when i write something not grim, but alas, here is a poem that may not be happy, or, perhaps, what it needs to be, but is merely what it is.


Saturday, October 08, 2005

why my house is not clean

the great
and i am
to see it
some left
like my
of the
some fly
fast, determined
like my
all business
where travel
some delight
like i
in diversion
wafting high
then low
the garden
for those
in need
with a
to linger.

and then:

then there are those
winging north
who knows
what they're
or where
they are going

another monarch
wings north
he forgot
to turn off
the iron
or change
for the phone.


there was a time
her small bicycle
with training wheels
doll carrier
and flourescent pink
was sufficient
shed the wheels
and circling indoors
she rides down
to the neighbor's
house and back
her world
like her
ever increasing
carrying her
from home.

Friday, October 07, 2005

encouraging word

my sister writes me this and it makes me think of how deep some of my readings have sunk into my psyche. one of the poems i read on the mountain was kabod Yahweh, it pleased the Lord to crush Him:

Hi Suzi Q,

I was just reading The Three Battlegrounds by Francis Frangipane and came upon this. It is an excerpt from the chapter Worship the purpose of creation. I think you may have read it to me once, but here it is for you....

"In these closing moments of this age, the Lord will have a people whose purpose for living is to please God with their lives. In them, God finds His own reward for creating man. They are His worshippers. They are on earth only to please God, and when He is pleased, they also are pleased. The Lord takes them farther and through more pain and conflicts than other men. Outwardly they often seem "smitten of God and afflicted" (Isaiah 53:4). Yet to God, they are His beloved. When they are crushed like petals of a flower, they exude a worship, the fragrance of which is so beautiful and rare that angels weep in quiet awe at their surrender. They are the Lord's purpose for creation.,

One would think God would protect them, guarding them in such a way that they would not be marred. Instead, they are marred more than other men. Indeed, the Lord seems pleased to crush them, putting them to grief. For in the midst of their physical and emotional pain, their loyalty to Christ grows pure and perfect. And in the face of persecutions, their love and worship toward God becomes all-consuming."



Monday, October 03, 2005


i do not want to know
your long publication
history or how much
more accomplished
you are, than i

no respecter of persons
do i want to be

only myself
fully lacking
wholly broken
impeccably flawed

i do not want to know
you know famous people
for i do not want to know you
for who you know

i want only to sit
and listen to your words
my brother, my tribesman, my friend.

so tell me of your heart
and all the things that fill it
tell me of your life
and your sorrow.

tell me of your joys
the things that make you smile
and i will tell you
of mine.

i cannot impress you with
i've done nothing

i cannot woo you with
namedropping foolishness
because people to me
are not commodities.

they are friends.
and friends whom i love
come from all walks of life
and i embrace their variety.

do not tell me of your awards
and your fancy degrees
for i care to hear
none of these. (damn rhyme)

symmetrical forests

climbing up the mount surrounded by great artisans (whom i shall not name), i found myself watching my footing along the root studded path. not gazing at the trees and scenes, though my photographer friend would point out a golden aspen glittering in the sun and run off to catch a glimpse of it.

butterflies are like grace. i said.
so are aspens. he replied. and darted off to capture grace.

i did not get it. i could not see it. my eyes were not seeking mystery, merely compassion.

i, the poet, was dull to the beauty, save that pointed out for me. i was not there to see the trees. i was there for the company. for the community. for the peopled solitude i often inhabit.

i found that there are voices which fray my nerves. there are also voices with a hint of joy, which soothe me. and those were the voices i wanted to hear. the voices tempered with honesty. the voices loud and full of certainty. the voices clear of tears, uninhibited by the tentativeness of uncertainty.

i did not make it to the cascading falls, which was our destination. i turned back. i descending down with a dear soul whose arthritic hip slowed our pace so i did not have to feel guilty for my lack of stamina and windedness in the altitudes. i could mete out my steps slowly, pensively. while we spoke of things and poetry, my favorite subject.

but after the path widened to the parking lot, i found a tree to perch upon. one felled and rested where my feet reached the ground (a marvelous comfort more than the long legged can imagine). and i listened to the gossipping brook. that was a voice that gentled me this weekend. one i could lose and find myself in.

a pine tree, perfectly formed, held my gaze and i began to realize it was the symmetrical beauty tree farmers pine for. in any other unprotected setting, this little beauty would have been doomed to hold up glittering balls and lights until it were faded brown and a certain hazard. then it would be drug curbside and abandoned to landfill where its future would not be to grow.

beside the little pine was a giant. i cranked my head back to take it all in. it towered above me like the empire state building and i was in awe. i looked at the little pine growing in its shelter and realized, this is what we do to poetry.

we cut off the little beauty, because we can. by our critiques and group think bring things into symmetry. we are in a sense, creating symmetrical forests.

the word that kept coming to me as i sat looking at the tree was compassion. compassion for the work of others, compassion for my own work. as we drove from the forest i noted the awkward bends of some trees, how some limbs face only one direction. how felled wood creates angles and beams to rival the greatest cathedral. how little ill-formed trees had grown into mighty ill-formed trees and the beauty was immense.

the beauty of the forest is its asymmetry.

perhaps my gangly poems, my ill formed works are the very stuff of beauty in my artist life. perhaps they will stand one day proud and tall, rivaling symmetrical giants. but i must not fell them. or let them be felled.

i must not fell the works of others. but let them grow. encourage their diverse beauty. and most of all, have compassion.