POETRY: On A Day In August by Thomas Merton
These woods are too impersonal.
The deaf-and-dumb fields, waiting to be shaved of hay
Suffer the hours like an unexpected sea
While locusts fry their music in the sycamores.
But from the curdled places of the sky
(Where a brown wing hovers for carrion)
We have not seen the heaven-people come.
The clean, white saints, have they forgotten us?
Here we lie upon the earth
In the air of our dead grove
Dreaming some wind may come and kiss ourselves in the red eyes
With a pennyworth of mercy for our pepper shoulders.
And so we take into our hands the ruins
Of the words our minds have rent.
It is enough.
Our souls are trying to crawl out of our pores.
Our lives are seeping through each part of us like vinegar.
A sad sour death is eating the roots of our hair.
Yet doors of sanitary winds lie open in the clouds
To vistas of those laundries where the clean saints dwell:
If we could only view them from our slum!
But our dream has wandered away
And drowned in the din of the crickets’ disconnected prayer.
Thus the grasses and the unemployed goldenrod
Go revel through our farm, and dance around the field.
The blue-black lights come shimmering upon the tar
Where kids made footprints in the melting way to Louisville.
And spooks come out of the road and walk the jagged heat
Like the time we found that drunkard lying still as murder
In the ditch behind the mill.
But you, Saint Clare,
We have been looking up your stairs all afternoon
Wanting to see you walking down some nimbus with your gentle friends.
Very well, clouds,
Open your purple bottles,
Cozen us never more with blowsy cotton:
Summon the punishing lightning:
Spring those sudden gorgeous trees against the dark
Curtain of apocalypse you’ll hang to earth, from heaven:
Let five white branches scourge the land with fire!
And when the first fat drops
Spatter upon the tin top of our church like silver dollars
And thoughts come bathing back to mind with a new life,
Prayer will become our new discovery.
When God and His bad earth once more make friends.
“Our souls are trying to crawl out of our pores.”
What an evocative line!
I love Thomas Merton. He continues to surprise me even after all the years that I have been reading him.