Dan Rifenburgh


Symeon: The Light Of The Spirit

Possessing it, I do not see it.
I contemplate it
When it goes away.

I quickly dash to seize it
And it completely flies off.

I am enflamed.
I ask in tears to be beaten,
To be trampled underfoot like dirt.

I ask for the all-powerful humility,
Stripping and pruning the will,
Renouncing world, pride, glory.

I choke in my desire to seize it
And all is night.
My poor hands are empty.

Then, dimly, like a delicate ray, the light,
Minute, then suddenly enveloping the mind,
Enrapturing in ecstasy

And then rapidly forsaking me, disappearing
So I might not die, not burst or vomit
With the food of perfect men.

How to recall its beauty?
How to understand?

It appears not when we desire it
But when we need it, are in trouble
And totally worn out.

After I have wept a lot,
Embracing my poverty,
I do not know what to do.

I cannot laugh.
I cannot look at man.
I despair of seeing it again.

I consent to cease.
I sit down and weep.

Then, mystically arrived,
Coming from afar,
A sweet light is kindled,

Inviting silence,
Stirred up by waiting,
Treading where humility
Has beaten down the grasses:

Entirely incomprehensible,
Inaccessible light,
Light which operates everything,
Flame reaching to heaven.

It rejoices in my lowliness.
It converses with me.
It enlightens me, looks at me
And I also look at it.

It tears me away from the world
And commands me: have mercy on all
Who are in the world.

It is in my heart; it exists in heaven.
Now the dragon is trampled underfoot.
I have discovered the day which has no end.
It invites me to ebb and flow with it,
To go in and out
And rest in its complacency.

I bear water to the peasants in the fields
With this jewel in my heart.


Dan Rifenburgh’s first book, Advent, received the Natalie Ornish Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. He also received a Robert Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America and a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship from the University of Texas. His second book, Isthmus, appeared in 2012 from Mutabilis Press. He earned an MA degree from University of Florida, where he studied with Donald Justice. A Vietnam Era veteran, he carries an outreach poetry workshop funded by Houston Grand Opera to veterans at the DeBakey Veterans Medical Center.