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.