Codices of Light

It’s the body which always intrudes and refuses
to allow the soul to see and hear the Invisible.

               Without light or guide, save that which burned in my heart[,]
               […]I remained, lost in oblivion[.]
                              —St. John of the Cross2

                              i. Recto

     Milk for the soul, when no longer
white, pages curdle under the dripping
     weight of their ink, curl, and take their
time to explain their scribes’ mistakes, between
     lines we learn of wars, of famines,
plagues, and floods, feel the rushing flame of some

Renaissance taper an excited hand
knocked over, the candle which, doubtless, spent
     its many midnights in toil while
some scholar dared not look on at the world’s
turmoil outside his window, seeming its
     end, setting to work, instead, on

     what lifts from codices what keeps
their invisible lives hid, that scholar’s
     gift one which continues to give,
since more can be said in metaphor than
     ever in the vernacular
of the language of the blind or lame man.

                              ii. Verso

Pain speaks without taking its time and keeps
pace in keeping its scrapes and scourges raw
     enough to triumph over talk,
trumping fools who walk cliffs and want to seek
what above only seems great to those not
     close enough to touch its worth, rips

     in tired folios monuments
to another’s battle to make off with
     wisdom, what they want to take from
her book one treasure only those men who
     kneel as penitents before it
can use, for she dwells among them in their

wells, her water that without price which fills
quills and sends on their pilgrimages knights
     who never leave their armchairs, flesh
to oblivion championing falls,
temptation’s terror the arrow that flies
     not by day, but the dart that writes.

1Nikos Kazantzakis, “Chapter Eight” in The Last Temptation of Christ: Translated from the Greek by P. A. Bien, published at New York by Scribner Paperback Fiction in 1998; page 103.
2St. John of the Cross, “Dark Night: Prologue: Stanzas of the Soul”, Stanzas 3 and 8, Lines 6 and 16, in Dark Night of the Soul: Translated and edited, with an Introduction, by E. Allison Peers from the critical edition of P. Silverio de Santa Teresa, C. D., published at New York by Image Books/Doubleday in 2005; page 30.