Mercury day poetry: ‘The Living Flame of Love’

Bobbie might kill me for this, but I’m pronouncing Wednesdays at The Confluence Countdown as “poetry day.”

St. John of the Cross, via

(Why might she kill me? Well, at the risk of doubling my chances of death, you can check our her online collection of poems here. I’m not sure it was ever her intention to cross the streams of these two sites. Although her earlier post sets the stage.)

Why Wednesday? Well, because Wednesday — in Spanish, miercoles, in French, mercredi — is Mercury’s day. And among his many attributes, he was the god of communication, so, I’m stretching that means a little. (Apologies, Apollo!) So Wednesday seems a good time to do this.

Now, a caveat. I’m not a huge fan of mixing poetry or similarly “deep thoughts” with yoga — necessarily. I’ve been in classes where hearing a Rumi poem works well, strikes just the right chord and enhances my Shavasana. But I’ve been in far more classes where the teacher’s reading is just annoying. (Fortunately, Tim Miller seems to have the gift for knowing when to read and when not to read. Some of the, shall we say, less experienced teachers I’ve had don’t.)

I’ll try to stay away from the Rumi you all already know.

First poem? One I keep waiting to hear in a class. It sounds like yoga, with tapas.

For those unfamiliar with him, St. John of the Cross is one of — in my mind — the two great Christian mystic poets. (We’ll bring you the other next week.) I’ve always been drawn to this poem through the image of the tender wounding. I often feel like yoga is that: it hurts, it tears, it drains, but it does so tenderly, to help us reach a better, more refined, place.

The Living Flame of Love

Songs of the soul in the intimate communication of loving union with God.

1. O living flame of love

that tenderly wounds my soul

in its deepest center! Since

now you are not oppressive,

now consummate! if it be your will:

tear through the veil of this sweet encounter!

2. O sweet cautery,

O delightful wound!

O gentle hand! O delicate touch

that tastes of eternal life

and pays every debt!

In killing you changed death to life.

3. O lamps of fire!

in whose splendors

the deep caverns of feeling,

once obscure and blind,

now give forth, so rarely, so exquisitely,

both warmth and light to their Beloved.

4. How gently and lovingly

you wake in my heart,

where in secret you dwell alone;

and in your sweet breathing,

filled with good and glory,

how tenderly you swell my heart with love.

Posted by Steve

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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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