The warm wind is turning the pages
of the book from poem to poem,
Whitman, then Frost, Snyder, Dickinson, Bly, Crane.
Then, when things get calm, I end
my reading where all the ladders start

hoping to find a way to climb
from the dank darkness of the foul
rag and bone shop of the heart
on rungs of words on yellowed pages,
or whispered from some light high above.

I was sitting outside reading poems and looking for inspiration from The Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart: A Poetry Anthology. The wind did turn the pages when I set the book down and I glanced at where it had selected poems. Interestingly, the anthology does not include the Yeats poem that gives the collection its title. That poem is “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” which begins with a line much like my reading session – “I sought a theme and sought for it in vain” and ends about the same place that I ended:

Those masterful images because complete
Grew in pure mind but out of what began?
A mound of refuse or the sweepings of a street,
Old kettles, old bottles, and a broken can,
Old iron, old bones, old rags, that raving slut
Who keeps the till. Now that my ladder’s gone
I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

Dark Days and Nights of the Soul

“In a real dark night of the soul, it is always three o’clock in the morning.”
– “The Crack-Up” by F. Scott Fitzgerald



In an obscure night fevered with anxiety,
I sit and write in my cell.
Dawn came. The shuttered room still dark.
I went outside, none seeing me there.
Invisible, I see souls in hapless plight.



The soul departs from itself and me.
Perhaps, it goes to God, leaving me
here to sojourn on alone once again.
The angels have also forgotten I’m here.
Early morning: the church doors are locked.


soul leaving


Mortified. Putting to death my believing life.
Fasting and abstinence from lack of interest.
Regeneration through self-denial. I have more flesh.
I wear a rosary like a necklace.
Tuesday and Thursday are for sorrowful mysteries.



Fresco in the Basilica of Santa Maria Novella showing Saint Dominic with a discipline in his hand, kneeling before a crucifix


My wife says “Get outside. Into sunlight.”
Illumination. Literal to become figurative. Like spirit
made flesh. Like the hopeful buds here.
Clouds of unknowing can block the Sun,
making day into night. I seek light.


at the window - light


John said “soul” – undefinable word for me.
Whatever energy within me there is that
vibrates with the universe, perhaps string theory
might explain it to some of you.
I’m still waiting for evidence. A sign.


The ascent has been slow these days.
Perhaps I have made no real progress.
Reaching out in this darkness requires faith
that there will be something to grasp,
something to pull oneself up into light.


The Saint reached his union with God.
I envy him, but believe I need
much less – clouds lifting, signs of dawn,
a warm fleshy hand, a soft voice.
I am listening. I am reaching out.


It’s noon but I’m looking at stars.
The Angelus. Faith. Knowing stars are there
even if unseen in this noche oscura.
Light years away, this light reaches me,
looking for the future in the past.



This is a galaxy known as NGC 1487, lying about 30 million light-years away. It is not a celestial object, but an event – galaxies merging together. (Image: NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope)


St. JohnSt. John of the Cross wrote a poem in the 16th century that we call “The Dark Night of the Soul.” It is in 8 stanzas of 5 lines each. It is about a journey through a “Dark Night.” It is dark because this journey is a mystical, spiritual one to God, and the darkness is there because God is unknowable.

Since ronka poems are also 5-line stanzas, I decided to write my own dark night poem. I ended up writing three poems and decided to write five more so that there would be 40 lines in 8 sections like St. John’s poem.

I wrote one every night for 8 days and today they go out into the world. Though all 8 of my poems are related, they are not meant to be read as one poem. The first poem uses wording from St. John’s poem.

I am also writing a longer prose post about the poem and my relationship to these dark nights.

Lessons of Darkness

This is the work of darkness – not

just night – but that other lacking time

when light is unseen. It is chiaroscuro.

Without art. Under an arch of lamentation,

these three days have been midnight unmoving.



Astronomer by Candlelight by Gerrit Dou (Dutch, 1613 – 1675) with a touch of modern technology