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The Abundance of Brightness

     God is not unknown on account of obscurity
     but on account of the abundance of brightness.
          — St. Thomas Aquinas

1.
Dante Mounting to the Rose of Heaven

Not one of us
could breathe this air,
face this naked radiance
unscathed.
Here music turns to light,
a tone so sweet
that we, dulled by
our familiar calliope,
mistake its sound for silence.

Dante, mounting to tiers of
trembling flame,
found light. Light everywhere.
Circles, wheels,
light on light,
a dance of invisibles.
The flames pulsating, as if
measuring the breath of heaven.
At the last, he falls forward,
caught in widening rings
of implacable bright.

2.
At Eleusis

Even at Eleusis,
after the long journey,
the sea-bath among the sacred waves,
the accounts of the grieving mother
and her vanished child,
at the end
the shouts rang out
like birth-cries in the throats
of the startled pilgrims, blinded
by the flare of torches sweeping
from frames of darkness.
Then silence. Then they saw.

3.
A Celebration

And then quiet.
Someone who whispers:
now we are free.

Which was, almost,
true,
but only in the way
a bird,
leaving a limb,
goes freely into
a different realm,
an atmosphere
more pure,
more transparent,
but that, too,
maintaining its fixities.

4.
The Clinging

[for those who] have beheld the Tao… gems sparkle on dusty roads; puddles appear as pools of lapis lazuli; tough weeds acquire fragile beauty…
     — John Blofield

The I Ching calls it clinging, fire:
“Fire has no definite form,”
it says,
“but clings to the burning object
and thus is bright.”

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