I was drawn to pick up a book the other night, when sleep proved illusive and when I opened the book I found this beautiful poem by Pablo Neruda.
The Mournful Face of God
I need your black wing.
So much honey in the topaz
each ray smiling in the wide fields
and all the abundant light about me,
all an electric whir in the high air.
And so give me your black wing,
to have the sapphire extinguished
and to have the angled mesh
the weeping of the earth
Now I am missing the black light.
Give me your slow blood,
spread over me your fearful wing.
Into my care give back the key
of the closed door.
For a moment,
for a short lifetime,
remove my light and leave me
to feel myself abandoned,
trembling in the web of twilight,
receiving into my being
the quivering hands of the rain.
Commenting on this poem Cedrus N. Monte writes:
In the bitters of Neruda’s poem, we are reminded of a primordial longing for darker places, spaces where we can rightfully mourn, feel our sadness, our grief and despair; a place where we can let ourselves experience, without shame or guilt, the sense of abandonment, and wretchedness we encounter in the wake of our wounds, in the recognition of others’ wounds, in receiving the “weeping of the earth”.
We are reminded that the mournful face of God, the shrine of darkness, is a holy place, a place that makes us whole, and heals. True to the paradoxical nature of spiritual and conscious life, the wounds we bring to this shrine are both the suffering and the redemption. Through them, we are pierced and torn apart, but without them, we would not have the opportunity to forge a forgiving and compassionate response. We would not have the opportunity to make love conscious.
In the pilgrimage to the shrine of darkness, something is attempting to come into fuller consciousness. Through pilgrimage, the rites of mourning are asking to be lived, death is seeking to be fully embraced, as part of life, the dark sister, the Dark Feminine, is asking to be honoured.
It is not the wholesale eradication of suffering that we must heroically achieve, but the humble understanding that suffering is inseparable from life.
How eloquently did he express the truths I was feeling inside my own heart. At times in my life when sadness was all around me and when the way into mourning was blocked or denied so was the entry way into the necessary passage closed off which would have led to a dark place which was the place of a difficult regeneration so necessary to face and experience.
At just such a time the book which contained Monte’s essay was recommended to me by a wiser soul. It seems at times in collective culture we don’t want to have to feel and accept the necessary passages of the Dark Feminine, of difficult and challenging emotions that are a necessary part of the darker side of the human experience. It seems to me that, at just such points (and I have experienced this myself) medication or some other pain killer is offered as a solution. And yet, the taking of such a solution often bars the way towards the necessary passage whose purpose is to enlarge and deepen our consciousness as human beings, fully awake and alive to the reality of being human.
We need courage, heart, strength, resilience and the suspension of rationality and control as we stand suspended at the doorways of such places as these are the qualities which will sustain us on the journey across that wide abyss which leads to a new shore. Sometimes we need permission to be in the dark, to shed the tears which are necessary; we need the psychic midwives that will encourage us and usher us across such passages not the killing voices of those who would deny their healing power.
Today I was speaking to a girlfriend in recovery who once a month goes through a painful surgical procedure to deal with a medical condition which is beyond cure. “The nurses have come to know me”, she said. “I always cry when they give me the needle”. Her tears to me speak to the fact that as a sentient creature she is alive and awake to pain and bearing witness to it. I have cried under painful needles and been there at the bedside of my mother and other elderly patients crying in pain as the nurses sought around for yet another vein.
Yesterday I was listening to a radio programme on Radio National about the healing power of tears. An author was saying how tears flow at the end or release point of the experience of difficult experiences not only of sadness but also of frustration, loss, shock and betrayal. To deny ourselves such a release means that we cannot integrate the full truth and enormity of our experience. I am always grateful for real honest heartfelt tears as they signal the watershed moment when pain and restriction which has gone on too long is finally giving way and releasing. I trust my tears as a portal into my own soul.
I love Neruda’s poem for speaking of the need we have to be held by the black wing of sadness when such holding is appropriate. It is a beautiful image to dream on. To contemplate. To celebrate.