The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Thursday, March 29, 2007

For Passiontide

Seven Penitential Psalms


Arturo Vásquez

Pugnamos ensartarnos por un ojo de aguja

(We fight to thread ourselves through the eye of the needle.)

-Cesar Vallejo, Trilce

….tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.


I had feared falling
The depth that could
Not be reached:

A rapturous vertigo of
Stained walls and streets-

Life of the soul
Sealed in a dismal sky.

Night of toil, flame,
Fleet of ovens-
Depth, the sound of
Metal turning on metal
It flowed tormented-
Drilled footsteps of armies
In the rain-

Fatigue, the passing, the day-
Hours devouring hours,
Sleepless, without escape-

Holding in the soul with his
Hands as if it had been cut open
By a sword-
Dreams and words spill
All over the floor,

Entrails sliding off entrails-
Looking up he sees
The dirty white ceiling-
Echoing of ovens-
Steel turning on steel,
Florescent scars on walls
Or the absence of light.

Spilling, the mind of love-
Spilling, it is not too late,
Spilling, it is broken open,
Fleeing, a perfect stasis of
Silence…. mute rage,
The emergence
Muffled in lidless eyes….

Sightless flight,
The sovereign night-
No longer cautious-
Cold, crushed on wheels
Of holy obedience-

A stick watered,
A soul immolated,
The remainder of the dead
Is dug up and defiled,

City walls thrown down,
Children burned, impaled,
The wailing of women
Violated over rubble-

Hands cut off,
Handless cries,
Handless tears,

Unable to pull back-
Gaze attached like hooks,
Red streams turning black
And blotting out the night sky-

It happens, it happens over,
It is happening over-

On this road, down the mountain-

Four o’clock and he
Hasn’t slept-
And if he falls asleep at the wheel,
His soul will be thrust
Straight into hell-

Obedience, holy obedience,
Dictates all-
The rising, the terror, and the fall-

The turning of metal on metal-
It flowed tormented,
Drilled footsteps of armies
In the rain.


Claws hoisting me up,
Red and black,
Red and black,
The image of the blinking eye,
Coming back, coming back.
There is a calm certainty
At the origin of rain-
It breaks open the clouds:
Space and lack,
Space and lack.
It is the gray form-
Comedic and homicidal:
The entrance of the widow
Into the valley,
Wearing black,
Wearing black.


Symptoms of decay-
The flowers under
The gray canopy of fog-

Fill these glasses with dust-
Spoilt powers of mortal fingers-
Sent down in the wind,
Clinging mightily
To the splinter of the pier.

In embers, it turned
The whole world into longing-

Lament of busses,
Lament of showers-

Swallow the scene with
A toothless eye-

What it calls,
What it catches-
The downcast gaze-

Chest empty of life-
Powerless is the
Pure form-

Sighing, breaking,
In the barren days.


The life of the soul
Is a cannibal-
Sweating noon gray
Like sheet metal
In the rain-

Spell of infanticidal witches-
Burning, chanting dark
Blood, through vanishing

With caution
Should the desert be approached-

Tattooed with yellow and
White specks-

Radio blaring….
I used to think that
The ground would be cut open
To produce scorpions-

Birth mother,
Death mother,
The hissing of snakes
That wish only poison
And pestilence-

Gliding off hills, soiled,
The sunset of blackbirds-

Carrion soliloquies,
Loud shrieks
Of blue sky
Turning red-

(Red is such a
Reassuring color)

But now it is all dissolving-
All dissolving into the
Foul odor of earth given water
Too late-

It is the spinning,
The spinning on the asphalt-
Reckoning the time with
Slashes of the razor blade-

Turn and turn
Onto dreams,
Roll over them like
A juggernaut and
Pull away.

Turn and turn
Unleash and burn-
Black pillar of smoke
Emerging from the
Desert brush-

Breaking apart over fire,
Over abandonment-

Turn and turn,
Flagrant lies
Crushed like leaves in the hand-
Broken on glowing stone:
A delicate strand of life
Cut away.

Turn and turn,
Wreck and burn,
It is all going up,
It is going up into
The air,
Battle of angels and demons-

Turn and turn
God’s love spurned-
Twelve rings of the bell-
The opening up of hell-

Lamps burst into blistering flames,
God turns away
And is muted again-

Turn and turn
A lesson unlearned-
Books in a fire-
Images burned-
Poems cut up
And tossed into the pyre-

Turn and turn
Until you fly apart-

Turn and turn-
The aborted eye-
The false start-

Turn and turn-
I spit on you-

This nothingness
That ascends into the sky
Like ash…


Reflection of violence
And shattered glass:
A youthful tear.

Unable to emerge
From the cave of his heart,
He stays there,
Suspended over the
Dark flame of being.

Cast out of that house,
He never left it-
Imprisoned in that room
In front of the
Warm glow of a television.

Shards, piles of shards,
He found himself broken.

Streets of forgetfulness,
Streets of pain
And wandering-
Exquisite death in
Seven years-
The tide rising,
Swallowing up the shore-
It was then that
He sank into himself;
Bubbles of the death howl
Emerging at the surface

It was them I saw him
Sink into himself-
And I have been standing on
This shore ever since-
A burnt Narcissus
Frozen in the glimmer
Of black water.

He tried to pick up his pieces,
But he was so scattered-
Pieces, pieces in
Every corner.

Abandoned, he waves
As I drift away,
But he does not look up-

His sunken eyes pinned
To his discalced feet.

This is the night
When life was laid down,
When it fell tragically
As if from a stray bullet-
When the curtain fell
In front of an empty theatre
And the crow flew off silently
Into the dark of the fields-

This is the night
When joy disappeared
In a murky well-
When hope was split apart
And innocence was covered
Behind a thick wall
Of smoke-
Sweet and suffering, it numbed
All desire and sealed the eye
In weariness.

Tonight, the moths dance around
The lamps and turn us away-
They offer nothing but contempt
At the misfortune of once having
Loved and played-

O mocking song that the moon
Sings against us-

O cold paths that strike our feet
With the scourges of sleeplessness-

O gleeful air, unforgiving,
That crushes our souls
Into powder!

Unholy family, broken,
Turned away and
He is still on that street-
Orphaned heart, spat upon,
Abject and derided,

The sun will never come up,
And the stars have gone out
In the sky.


Why did You not slay me
In the sadness of that day?
Why did you not free me
From the burden of that pain?

Why do I go afflicted
In the midst of this foul strife?
Why am I the fruit of death
And the abjection of this life?


Why is it, O Jesus, that You look upon me?
Why does the heart lie there, ungracious and cold?
Why do I still stand, unable to bend the knee
In a prayer, soft and faint, wounded and bold?

There is no path before me, Lord,
Banished and lost am I again-
Into the mother’s heart I thrust another sword,
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem.

I only have sorrow for myself and not for You,
Having nailed You again to the life-giving Tree,
My sin emerges, and my guilt is ever new,
Tibi soli peccavi et malum coram te feci.

The life given to me I have broken in twain,
No words do I have for my most shameful ways,
Only this cry I offer of despair and pain:
De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine.

For I have been unable to pity and forgive,
My soul having been trampled down mercilessly,
On tears and bitterness do I now live,
Deus meus, quare me dereliquisti?
So Your forgiveness has been taken from this wretch,
I squat in a corner of hell, a look unable to send
Toward Your tender face, toward Your arms outstretched,
Dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem….


Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam….


At 4:44 PM, Blogger Archistrategos said...

That was beutiful, haunting and just exquisite. I got chills at the 'dum veneris iudicare saeculum per ignem'-- this has always been a favorite line of mine, and I still pray it every night. Thanks for that poem, Arturo.


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