The Castle Within

Castle in Papowo Biskupie-interior

Image via Wikipedia

In the 1500’s, Spanish mystics Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, spur-headed reforms in Catholic religious orders. Their works endure to this day. To us, it may seem that they quest for union with the Creator is complicated, but reduced to its simplest terms, they invite the soul to prepare a place for oneness with its Source. Both saints were poets and prolific writers. Teresa chose the metaphor of a castle to describe the journey of contemplation. I have written a dialogue between The Soul and Satan (the Self, the Ego) in which Satan encourages the Soul to abandon her journey to the within.

In response to Poetry Potluck’s prompt of Castles, Fortresses, and Palaces I chose to write a Sestina–a form that’s about as complicated as Teresa and John. This needs work and I welcome your critique..

The Castle Within
A Sestina

The Soul
I journey to a place that’s sacred,
travel above, below, within.
I walk a path of emptiness
knowing not who it is I seek.
Clouds catch colors that fill the sky
casting reflections on water.

Naked, submerged in fresh waters,
you utter words, evoke the sacred,
brandish ideas across the sky,
soak in lies that stir within
not knowing what it is you seek
embracing only emptiness.

Not understanding emptiness,
your thirst is not quenched by water
you do not know the source you seek
cathedrals, temples though sacred
cannot answer questions within
though spires stretch, try to reach sky.

Drowned in mystery—above, the sky.
Below—a trough of emptiness
that murkiness within your soul.
Troubled tempest of primal waters
envelopes all you hold sacred,
eludes the meaning that you seek.

What is it, soul, that you seek?
To know who lies beyond the sky?
To touch the silk of sacredness?
To fill the void of emptiness?
Blissful, to float in limpid water?
To satisfy yearning within?

The Soul
Satan, begone, for here within
the castle of my soul, I seek
not to probe the depth of water,
nor soar to crystal heights of sky.
You tempt, betray my emptiness,
eschew the gifts that I hold sacred.

Love Speaks
Enter the sacred room within, beloved
your emptiness filled because you seek.
Be bathed in water, clothed in sky.


24 thoughts on “The Castle Within

  1. Jamie Dedes says:

    Have to think about this and come back. I think it’s a fabulous piece and fine concept inspiriting it. I’ll be back …


  2. Jingle says:

    the first one is super brilliant.

    keep it up.
    your poetry rocks.



  3. Judith Evans says:

    Very nice use of this prompt. The last section — Love Speaks — ends the poem on a glorious note!


  4. bendedspoon says:

    This is great! I love the idea of the castle within — need not seek far 🙂


  5. Drowned in mystery – absolutely and the mystery of your words it’s brilliant as usual!


  6. Very impressed!!! Great backgound and awesome poem. Luv ur voice, girl with a cool name.


  7. Kavita says:

    Oh wowww!! This was such an intense write, Victoria…
    Beginning from the title, I was immersed in it, till the last letter! At certain points in the poem, I think I could even identify with the subject.. (sigh)..
    And then how well you have given it that hopeful and love filled end.. it was just beautiful!


  8. dragonkatet says:

    I don’t know enough about the Sestina form to be able to give you an informed critique, Victoria, but from what I read, this was well done. I agree with Emmanuel – my first thought was that it reminded me of the Greek epic poem plays. I agree with poetrydiary that the Ego (Satan) has too much to say in this (of course, that’s in keeping with character…haha), but I also understand if that’s kind of the point. 🙂 Anyway, I think it is a wonderful contribution to the potluck!


  9. This reads like a play. Well done with writing from the perspective of three different characters and putting it so nicely.



  10. Tino says:

    Until 5 minutes ago, I had no idea what a Sestina was. Now I know and understand what one is, I can say that this is an excellent effort.

    Said I am never disappointed in your offerings, moreso than ever with this.


  11. ladynimue says:

    This was a wonderful read .. an amazing tale that hold your attention tight ! will have to check sestina ..


  12. kshawnedgar says:

    Naked Satan. Nice. Strong image.


  13. tigerbrite says:

    When I first contemplated a sestina I thought I it would never work with any sense. I got past this barrier and found that the sestina has a pattern that calls to spirit who come to help. And the results are magical. This is a beautiful piece. You know that St John and St Teresa are dear to my heart. I perceive that Satan is the ego here.


  14. Bodhirose says:

    I think Satan/ego/self deserved all that “air time” because that is what our day-to-day struggles are mostly focused on. I loved the Soul’s calm, cool demeanor of sending the ego “away”. And Love’s entry was filled with compassion and gentle comfort–it felt so sweet. I really enjoyed this beautiful sestina that you presented with such depth and meaning, Victoria.


  15. honeyhaiku says:

    Victoria, I can not even begin to speak of how lovely this is. I love the history given before the poem. What a wonderful tapestry of struggle and supremacy! A sestina of the finest degree!


  16. trisha says:

    this is so beautiful victoria. our heart is the castle in which our soul roams, looking for answers, the answers lie inside it, thats why a wise soul is not misguided.


  17. poetrydiary says:

    I’m not normally a fan of sestinas, but I think the form works well here. It is a complicated subject…

    You made me reflect on the two sides of open-minded yearning for meaning – one negative (i.e., you haven’t got a clue…) and the other positive (seeking the one-ness).

    I liked the end. Just wondered if Satan has too much airspace!


  18. Reflections says:

    A spectacular read… reminding the lost souls of the direction that guides our journeys. Divine writing.


  19. david waters says:

    your words have left me speechless…divine writing


  20. souldipper says:

    You not only reminded me of Caroline Myss’s “Entering the Castle”, you reminded me that I am negligent in studying St. Teresa’s practice for finding God in our Soul.

    Your last verse calms the waters and makes the way feasible.


  21. Bill says:

    Wow! As Carolyn Myss (who wrote a book about Teresa’s journey called “Entering the Castle”) might say, you have a true seeker archetype. The thoughts here are pitch-perfect. Your deep conception, and willingness to follow through, allows you to choose and work with words that make the sestina form seem effortless and right. It’s the kind of poem that longs to be something else, but still stays beautifully true to its own limitations, which is I take one of the main meanings of the poem.

    Since you asked. I’d have only two “critiques”:

    – the section titles detract from the flow of thought; they aren’t needed to clarify, the journey is clear enough.
    – more purple, either in the words or the picture of the castle; this is a very royal and rarefied effect you have created that can be enhanced.


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