Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Arlene Corwin writes

Still Needing Reminders

How long does it take to be a person
Who does not need reminders?
There have always been 
Those men and women fully mended
And full-ended
Who learned all one needs
To know about the, sum and substance
Of reality: its essence.

Incarnation, seer, saint, 
Completed men and women
Who know life for what it ‘ain’t,
And what it truly represents
Here and for all I know, beyond.

In that case, 
How long should it take, for me,
And probably for you,
To get to be that total human
One so much looks up to.

One works, one strives perhaps, for lives.
One thinks at times, one’s climbed the climb,
Attained its aim;
Achieved, accomplished… then one’s lame,
Where one must climb some more,
Renew the ‘brilliant’ store
Of insight that one thought one had,
Life’s underlying gladness passed
(or is it past?).

That’s when the books come down once more
From well-stocked shelf;
One is searching once again for self
Through words of those who saw the light;
Whose insights helped and help your night:
Your dark night of the soul*

Stage set,
Your sage is met.
You’ve been re-minded and re-souled;
Not far off from a whole again – 
Till then.

*Dark Night Of The Soul: A phrase from St John Of the Cross’ book, which narrates the journey of the soul from its bodily home to union with God. It happens during the "dark", which represents the hardships and difficulties met in detachment from the world and reaching the light of the union with the Creator. 
Christ of Saint John of the Cross.jpg 
Christ of Saint John of the Cross -- Salvador Dalí
 Crucifixion -- St. John of the Cross


  1. In 1563, 21-year-old Juan de Yepes y Álvare entered the Ordo Fratrum Beatissimæ Virginis Mariæ de Monte Carmelo (the Carmelites) and adopted the name Juan de San Matías, in honor of the apostle chosen to replace Judas after the crucifixion of Jesus. In 1567 he met the mystic Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (St. Teresa of Ávila), who was in the process of reforming the Carmelite Order by instiuting harsher, more rigorous rules. In 1568, at Duruelo (midway between Ávila and Salamanca, he founded a new monastery for Carmelite friars, the 1st to follow Teresa's principles, amd marked the occasion by adopting a new name, Juan de la Cruz. After founding other monasteries he was invited in 1572 to rejoin Teresa at Ávila to become the spiritual director and confessor of the 131 nuns at her new convent. In 1576 the Carmelites ordered the suppresion of the discalced ("barefoot") houses of worship, though Teresa's supporters were able to resist the move for several months. On the night of 2 December 1577 anti-reformers broke into Juan's dwelling in Ávila, took him prisoner, and sent him to the Carmelite monastery in Toledo, where he was jailed in a tiny cell and lashed every week. He managed to escape after 8 months of captivity and proceeded to lead the movement to separate the Carmelites into 2 (old and reform) orders (directed by the pope in 1580) and then wrote the constitution for the new order. After disagreeing with his superior. vicar general Nicolas Doria, he was sent from Segovia to La Peñuela, an isolated monastery in Andalucía, in June 1581 and died in December at Úbeda, where he had gone for treatment. His body was secretly transferred back to Segovia in 1593, although 1 of his legs was left behind, and an arm was detached in Madrid en route to Segovia; in 1596 another leg and an arm were returned to Úbeda.

  2. In 1578 or 1579 Juan wrote the untitled "La noche oscura del alma," and in 1584-85 he wrote 2 book-length commentaries on the poem, "Subida del Monte Carmelo" (Ascent of Mount Carmel) and "Noche Oscura" (The Dark Night).

    In a dark night
    With longings kindled in love
    oh blessed chance
    I went forth without being observed
    My house already being at rest

    Through darkness and secure
    By the secret ladder disguised
    oh blessed chance
    Through darkness and in concealment
    My house already being at rest

    In the blessed night
    In secret that none saw me
    Nor I beheld aught
    Without any other light or guide
    Save that which was burning in the heart

    That which guided me
    More sure than the light of noonday
    Where he was awaiting me
    Him whom I knew well
    In a place where no one appeared

    Oh thou night that guided
    Oh lovely night moreso than the dawn
    Oh thou night that joined
    Lover with beloved
    Beloved in the lover transformed

    Upon my flowery breast
    Which I kept whole for himself alone
    There he stayed sleeping
    and I was caressing him,
    And the fanning of the cedars made a breeze

    The breeze from the turret
    While I was parting his locks
    With his gentle hand
    He was wounding my neck
    And causing all my senses to be suspended

    I remained myself and forgot myself
    My face reclined on the lover
    All ceased and I abandoned myself
    Leaving my concern
    forgotten among the lilies.

    --tr. Kieran Kavanaugh


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