Abscissa of the Soul

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Photo by Brian Federle: Seagull, New Brighton Beach, 2009

“Once we enter again into contact with our own deepest self, with an ordinate self-love that is inseparable from the love of God and of His truth, we discover that all good develops from within us, growing up from the hidden depths of our being according to the concrete and existential norms laid down by the Spirit Who is given us from God. “  Thomas Merton, The New Man

Go beyond
the surface
of things,
deeper
than thin soil
fecund
in the rain,
but dried to dust
by the summer wind.

Dive head first
into the darkness;
have faith
that someone
will catch you,
that you will
spash into
a warm sea,
that a strong hand
will reach out
and save
your life.

If you wait
for proof
you will find only
a solid stone
at your core.

Death
is like that…
facts dash
your brains,
bring you
to the edge
of nothing.

But faith
will lift you
beyond
your limitations,
will bear you up
on golden wings,
make of you
the Royal Ordinate
of time and space
and you will dance
to the music
of the spheres,
as without fear
you reach out
to your Beloved,
the Abscissa
of the soul.

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Author’s Note: In mathematics, ordinate refers to that element of an ordered pair which is plotted on the vertical axis of a two-dimensional Cartesian coordinate system, as opposed to the abscissa.  on a graph, the “x” coordinate rises or falls on the vertical line, but never moves forward. Alone, it is doomed to fail, to fall to its eventual death because things that do not move forward always die. But with its abscissa, it has forward movement… purpose… life… and can continue to soar into the ether. I am not good at math but quite good at seeing things.

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Sunrise

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Photo: Sunrise Orcas Island, 2014.  Brian Federle
“Sunrise is an event that calls forth solemn music in the very depths of man’s nature, as if one’s whole being has to attune itself to the cosmos and praise God for the new day, praise Him in the name of all the creatures that ever were or ever will be.”  Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Oh call me softly
in the morning!
With winter’s sun
paint golden
the pale trees.
In deep waters,
in cool ponds brush my
legs, caress
my tender feet.
Your breath flies
through the green
canyons.
With tongues
of flame
 oh, ravish me!

He Does Not Need Your Sacrifice

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“He does not need our sacrifices,
He asks for our selves.”
Thomas Merton, No Man is an Island

Your sacrifice is like
the breath
of the sparrow
in the roiling storm.

It is not needed
but pleasing in its
simplicity.

When you peel away
your small, feathered
soul, when
you stretch your thin
lungs to sing
your hymn of self-
immolation,

remember that
it is not necessary,
no, not at all,

but still pleasing is
the purity of
your song.

(25 Feb 2012)

Faith

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Photo Brian Federle: Overcast in Oregon, 2008

Faith
is seeing my blood
coursing through
shut eyelids

and feeling
blood pushing down
into my arms and legs,

believing
it will soon return
to my darkly
beating heart.

But faith is more than
seeing
or believing.

Faith shines
like the cloistered sun
concealed by thick
autumn clouds.

Faith knows
all my childish lies,
and gently laughs
at my innocence.

Faith stalks me,
deep into my desert
where, trembling,
I wait for her famished arrow.

I love faith;
in her passionate embrace
I fall into my
darkest night.

I fear faith;
slave to her lacerating truth
reluctantly I walk
into her relentless light.

Bridge at Montezuma Slough

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We drive to see
where the twisted road will lead.

Salty river, winding slough,
dark water
rising to frothy cap
slapping concrete pier,

moon driven waves race
back to beckoning bay.

Finally we must decide…

cross the low bridge
or turn back,

but the flood is so close to the deck!

We feel tidal vibration,
basso profondo,
rattling sub-sonic
in our ears
as together
we face our fear,

and slowly cross,
eyes always ahead
til again we feel sure earth
solid beneath our tread.

(2013 – 2018)

On the Feast of St. Stephen

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The Martyrdom of St. Stephen by Peter Paul Rubens 1616-1617

“The life of the soul is not knowledge, it is love, since love is the act of the supreme faculty, the will, by which man is formally united to the final end of all his striving – by which man becomes one with God.” (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain)

See how wind tears, how
clouds ravage the sky
to shreds…

Can you hear the geese fleeing
shouting dread
as the savage storm crouches?

Are you afraid?

I know
how the sea sometimes
launches boulders;

but the stubborn land
bows and waits
and, swollen, forgives

with torrents of life;
rivers of joy.

(2013-2017)

false comfort, treacherous joy

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Photo Brian Federle: Candles 2014

Lights dancing
In evergreen branches

bright birds perched among
golden ornaments —

false comfort,
treacherous joy!

For this season of life
refreshes my tears,
renews my pain.