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What is this world but the absence of God, his withdrawal, his distance (which we call space), his waiting (which we call time), his footprint (which we call beauty)? God could only create the world by withdrawing from it (otherwise there would be nothing but God), or by remaining in the form of absence, hiddenness, withdrawal, as a footprint is left behind in the sand at ebb tide by a traveler who has disappeared; it is at once the sole evidence of his existence and of his disappearance.
——————————————-—Simone Weil

Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus…. Jesus himself came up and walked along with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
——————————————-
—Luke 24:13–17

1.

August is not April, the cruelest month,
but summer
that clothes all ripening in fruit of the trees
and preserves lost remembrances in the earth.
Afternoon surprised us
straying in a dark wood
nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
or perhaps beyond it—harvesting
and crushing grapes in the winepress of the sea,
the must of waves lapping at your feet
and rising up your thighs until it set the afternoon afire with the blood of
the god.
“What is this,” you were saying, “sweet as the grape that ferments inside me and won’t leave me at peace with myself
as if something were awakening there, that was and is no more:
a vestige of the god in the feasts of Eleusis
or the drunken drought of the Paschal days
that few remember now?”
We found ourselves in summer, with the sound of the sea over Puerto Escondido,
speaking of these things, keeping
that grass-blade of life warm with memories,
and wet our feet in the must as in days gone by
and crossed the beach toward the rocks,
to the murmuring of the blinded crowd in the città dolente.
“No one remembers now,” you told me,
“no one can know it or maybe even imagine,
for we know only a heap of broken images
where the sun gives no light and the tree no shelter,
wine is only wine
and the cycle of months in my womb is menstrual darkness, nothing more:
no one can know what is stored there,
for here there is only shadow
under this red rock that is the world.”

Come in under the shadow of this red rock,
as in the ancient cave, but with your face to the fire;
I am going to show you not something different
but what is and has been, in a track of time.

Coming back from the rocks to the hotel along the track of the sea,
you and I, Isolde, speaking of these things as on the first day, loving each other,
while the grape fermented inside you, as the cosmos teems in its cycles,
we saw, under that red rock,
time stopping in the song of the sea and its recurring voice,
between the ruach of Yahweh and the hour of this now,
before the travelers’ breakfast,
the hollow words,
the yellow fog in the window
and the din of a thousand worlds ending;
before yes and no,
before a thousand I-love-you’s
and eating a bit of bread with our coffee,
in that gaping hollow in the void
under this red rock, you and I saw time stop.
We were not before or after,
we were not now,
because the past has been, the future is not,
and the present is lost like water between our fingers—
we were here, within ourselves,
contemplating the heart of time,
the immutable presence of love that stays forever in the sea-swell
and makes time possible,
and the cycles of your womb,
the secrets of Eleusis
and the Christmas dawn, and the path to the beginning—
the faces of love in their aspect of time—
while everything is moving, everything passing, under this red rock,
and you and I walk back toward the hotel
through the needle that stitches yesterday to tomorrow,
outside and inside time,
in the summer that enfolds memory,
shelters all ripening with fruit of the trees,
and preserves lost remembrances in the earth.

2.

In silence is the beginning
and in the word the end, and vice versa:
so silence moves in the dark
and dark is the god,
dark his presence,
dark his pent-up word that beats its wings in the dark
where the void suddenly opens
like a love-cry in the face of the abyss,
like a hollow in nothingness,
a gentle contraction of the god and of the dark
in the unfastening of silence.

And from the void, the resounding language of God,
silence made song in the word.

So day after day, words reappear from the dark,
create, and crumble, and come undone,
fall like houses of bricks;
like a ray in the forest the word sheds light,
sings flame by flame in the fire
until it turns to flesh, bones, countenance
and returns to silence
illuminated.

And in that unsaying, which is the saying of the god,
in that eternal hollow of the dark
everything rises and is named,
everything is time,
time for light and for darkness,
for yesterday and today,
for walking, you and I, to the hotel, past history,
contemplating in the track the sea leaves behind, receding,
this unsoundable hollow of the dark;
time for silence and the word,
for fire and dance,
for saying I love you and knowing there is an order that names us, and makes
us possible,
a third who sings
in the unending night of darkness;
time for distress and anguish,
for setting one’s house in order
and feeling death enter
our weakened bones like wind
and carry us off to silence,
to the inextinguishable fire of the dark,
where in the gaping hollow we see ourselves in each other,
bearing in the word of flesh
sorrow and pleasure transfigured at last in the long void
where love strips bare its silence in words
and the word is light in the silence.

3.

The void, the void, the void,
everything comes from it,
the word and the cosmos,
light and dark,
the emptiness of space,
the waters above and below,
all comes from the void,
the vaults of heaven, their lights,
the cycles of days, all living things,
the grape that ferments in your womb and turns with the passing months,
all is of the void
and of the void is life,
history and its wonders,
time and clocks,
you and I and we together in slow procession toward the void
because there is nothing else,
because all is of the void and belongs to it,
including the bankers, and the self-satisfied,
and those who presume to add one inch to their stature,
or to stop the hair of their heads from falling, or to fill the void,
distinguished politicians, captains of industry,
custodians of faith in progress,
all come from the void and return to it.

Impoverish yourself in all things, Daughter of Man,
until you are nothing,
because only nothingness is presence in time,
because only nothingness is presence,
because only nothingness,
because only.

The way that artisans mold clay
to make a bell,
though it’s the hollow space that makes for sound;
the way we open the windows and doors of a house
so that the empty space receives the light, and inhabits it—

Impoverish yourself, Daughter of Man,
until you are emptiness,
for what is created then, to your astonishment,
is the empty space the god makes, retreating,
for what you see on Christmas Day
is the muteness of the god in his word;
what you see at Easter-time
is the empty space the god makes, renouncing,
and what you are not is the only thing you are
and where you are not, only there can life be.

And I, Pitia of Delphos, Red Virgin, daughter of Eckhart,
shut inside the walls of the Ashford sanatorium,
sibyl of three worlds,
I saw, beyond all violence of pride,
behind the swastika and the Lagers’ horror,
behind the awful jubilation of future dominions,
I saw the god resplendent of himself, as if of nothing,
like a light wind in the breezes of dawn,
like a hollow and striation,
like the gentle footprint of one who walks at the receding tide,
I saw the god shine in the absent presence of the secret,
in the resonant light of silence.

Impoverish yourself completely, Daughter of Man,
holding no idea of the god
because one idea would be too much;
become poor in all things, until you are nothing,
because only in nothingness is the empty space of love made visible,
because only in nothingness is the empty space of love,
because only in nothing,
in the naked brightness of nothing.

4.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
or perhaps beyond it—
straying in this dark wood,
summer surprised us on our way to the hotel above Puerto Escondido,
speaking of these things
beside the multitude flowing like a muddy river from the città dolente,
each one staring at his feet
and believing himself to be going somewhere
when, secondo che per ascoltare,
non avea pianto mai che di sospiri
che l’aura eterna facevan tremare,
I had not thought there were so many,
walking blind and bereft of memory.

So afternoon surprised us
when in the lapse of time between two waves,
amidst the river of the dead, we contemplated
a third who walked beside us
gliding along in his brown coat,
a third who they say was put to death in the città dolente;
he shared his bread with us,
and then we knew
that the road that descends is the one that rises,
that time is not time
but the vast emptiness from which things flow;
so summer surprised us
beside the multitude dragging its feet in slow fury,
outside and inside time,
in the void that makes history possible and intercepts it
where you and I walked back to the hotel.

This is not hell, said the third one—
at times we could see him,
wrapped up in his brown coat—
this is not hell
but a cleft in the rock that those with eyes can see
and those with ears can hear;
this is not hell
but a long track left in the wilderness
where you and I walk to the hotel
listening to the silence that the word speaks;
this is not hell
or the gnashing of teeth
or a road that climbs anywhere,
but a multitude that does not wish to see
or wish to hear.

Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
or perhaps beyond it—
on our way to the hotel,
we sit, you and I, Beatrice,
at the edge of the rocks,
in the track of the sea,
with the sorrowful city at our backs
and the noise of the crowd like a distant murmuring,
speaking of these things, astonished,
sensing this third one we can sometimes see
turning a key
behind whose open door
tongues of flame intertwine in the dark void
through which all dances and all is transfigured,
world without end,
amen.

Translated from the Spanish by Dan Bellm


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