The soul is a terrible thing; it cannot die.
Though it run past the heart’s beat and the lung’s breath
and cry through all the valleys of endlessness
it cannot find its death.
The soul is a terrible thing, and it has only
one of two destinies:
up steeps of light that to the eye below
are too remote, too lonely,
cliffs of negation where the heart’s herb withers,
solitudes chilled and barren, or a deep
unknown where midnight wanders in her sleep.
Yet its ascensions open upon wonder,
plateaus of midday, balconies of sun,
and its last peak can cleave the white air under
the firmament called God, the final One.
Failing to rise, the soul can turn and follow
the way of its own willing and be lost,
crossing somewhere the boundaries of love,
that safe sweet nation of the Holy Ghost.
The soul though born of God can yet be given
to ultimate evil and be one of those
in pain alone preserved
whom the apt metaphors of Judas enclose:
wandering stars to whom the storm of darkness
is forever reserved.
Yet its true destiny confounds all language,
even the mind’s profound imagined word
For on the heights of grace it yet may be
the secret chamber of a Deity
where what is spoken in God, in God is heard.
And What is Love proceeds eternally,
Oh, at this mystery that lies within me
I walk indeed with trembling, or I stand
crying God’s pities out of His right hand—
that I, so poor a creature, am so favored
with this too precious gift of soul, that I
bear in so undependable a vessel
this terrible, terrible thing they call a soul.
Sr. Miriam of the Holy Spirit, O.C.D.
The soul is a terrible thing (1945; 1946)
Powers, J 1999, The Selected Poetry of Jessica Powers, ICS Publications, Washington DC.
Featured image: Votive candles burn brightly at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Photo credit: Corey Bruns / Flickr (All rights reserved) used by permission.
Leave a Reply