SWWIM publishes, celebrates, & promotes women, women-identifying & Femme-presenting writers through a Miami-based reading series & the online poetry journal SWWIM Every Day.

Poem for St. John of the Cross by Lisa Zimmerman

 In the dark night of the soul, bright flows the river of God

                                                                            Saint John of the Cross


Your father married for love

an orphan below his noble station.

Discarded by his wealthy kindred

they say your parents nurtured you in poverty—

and the bread was as sweet as any bread


and the days offered their shiny hands

and their little streams of water

singing in the glades.


I see you wandering happily as a boy,

the sun a crown on your small head,

your bare feet scuffing the dust.

God chirped like a wood lark

in the throat of afternoon

and the lonely months in prison

were far ahead beneath the great shadow

of the future.


I try to follow you there, O mystic,

to watch you defy your greedy brethren

monks who will reject your reforms, your love

of less, of days returned to prayer and fasting.


Fat and threatened, they silenced you

in a narrow stone cell, one tiny window

like the one in the soul where day after day

the voice of God pierced your suffering.


Out of emptiness, a full heart—

out of abandonment, a poem of seeking—

out of utter darkness, a gleam of pure light—

love’s last trembling boat waiting for you

to get in, and row.


Lisa Zimmerman's poetry and short stories have appeared in Natural Bridge, Florida Review, River Styx, Colorado Review, Poet Lore, Cave Wall, Redbook and other journals. Her most recent poetry collections are The Light at the Edge of Everything (Anhinga Press) and The Hours I Keep (Main Street Rag). Her poems have been nominated four times for the Pushcart Prize. She is an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado and lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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