copyright © 2021 by Susan K. Hagen
After Reading Hafiz
Bernini’s St. Teresa comes the closest in Western art,
closest to the ecstasy of desire fulfilled by the divine,
closest to admitting the sensuality of spirit,
closest to the complete abandonment of the body
to the experience of the Belovèd.
Oh, Herbert tried. And Donne knew the body
was kin to the spirit,
but prayed to be battered rather than beloved.
Yet, passion is passion. Desire is desire.
Longing so intense that it hollows the body,
stops the mind, and burns the heart is longing.
To be fair, 15th-century Anonymous knew—
knew that the language of courtly longing
could capture the Christ’s passion
even before the Passion.
A hundred years before, Julian found
mother and brother in the universal Love,
speaking in homely conversation,
assured that all shall be well,
while her Eastern brother Hafiz
celebrated the kinship
of sensuality and spirit.
Loving ignited by desire in the eye
inflames a great passion of living.
Loving kindled by searching lips and sweet kisses
warms in the ease of familiarity.
But in the turquoise-blue hours before sunrise,
when my lover wakes me
with soft pressure on my shoulder,
pulling me closer,
lips unmoving in silent appeal,
love is most vulnerable,
most wanted, most proffered,
Kiss of the Spirit
Some say a strong wind
is a cruel wind.
The Belovèd says
it is the kiss of the spirit
desirous for creation.
How easily I find the Belovèd in my garden.
Bloom, butterfly, bird and bug,
all embroider the garment of universal Love.
Even in the eyes of my dog,
who dares to look me directly,
deeply, in the eye
or in the soft eye of horse or otter or other,
I find the probing spirit of the Belovèd.
But on the morning streets, in the underground,
in the rush of work and worry
where human eyes grow pale and averting
and I am not moved
to touch, or pet, or embrace,
where I must face how threadbare—
how worn and warped—
the garment of universal Love can be,
I struggle to find the Belovèd, who
still with eyes averted
looks back at me.
To the Least of These
The shade of weathered wood,
from a distance down the road
a thick twig
or short stick, an uplifted crick on the end.
But, in turtle season
warm asphalt and impelling desire call
for crossing to the other side,
seductive reptile mystery on country roads.
I named it before I passed,
stretched neck and upturned head
body raised on short in-turned legs—
slow motion frozen in turtle-indecision.
Skirting wide to avoid, to give space
on the morning road,
I could not avoid my own reproach.
I did not stop.
I did not carry it to the other side.
For a mile or two
saying it will be safe,
saying there is no place to turn around,
my better self followed close behind.
Turning back, driving slowly,
searching where the margin met the road
there was no short stick, no twig, no turtle—
only a suspicion of a testing of the Spirit.
30 May 2020
From the depth of human innocence,
from the height of human temerity,
I challenged the Belovèd,
“You are all compassionate.
You are all merciful.
Why do you let us suffer poverty, disease, violence?”
Heaven did not darken.
Thunder did not roll.
A sweet breeze only
answered me, enfolded me,
“How else would you learn
compassion and mercy?”
Shall We Dance?
Walking the ridge of the mountain,
high among the conifers
the spiced scent of spruce and Christmas in the air,
the Belovèd and I
looked down the valley upon Appalachian hardwoods
swaying in changing weather.
Sourwood and black gum,
tulip trees and thin sassafras
touched tops in undulating waves.
In rising wind, supple spruce
bowed down as though to kiss
oak crowns shifting in time
to alternating gust and breeze.
Moved by the music of it all,
“My Belovèd! My Belovèd, look
how beautifully the trees waltz to the wind,
as though in rhythm with the whole world!”
The Belovèd smiled, took my hand,
“Shall we dance?”