Thomas Merton

POETRY: With The World In My Blood Stream, by Thomas Merton

October 5, 2012

I lie on my hospital bed Water runs inside the walls And the musical machinery All around overhead Plays upon my metal system My invented back bone Lends to the universal tone A flat impersonal song All the planes in my mind Sing to my worried blood To my jet streams I swim in the world’s genius The spring’s plasm I wonder who the hell I am. The world’s machinery Expands in the walls Of the hot musical building Made in maybe twenty-four And my lost childhood remains One of the city’s living cells Thanks to this city I am still living But whose life lies here And whose invented music sings? All the freights in the night Swing my dark technical bed All around overhead And wake the questions in my blood My jet streams fly far above [...]

POETRY: How Long We Wait, by Thomas Merton

September 21, 2012

How long we wait, with minds as quiet as time, Like sentries on a tower. How long we watch, by night, like the astronomers. Heaven, when will we hear you sing, Arising from our grassy hills, And say: “The dark is done, and Day Laughs like a Bridegroom in His tent, the lovely sun, His tent the sun, His tent the smiling sky!” How long we wait with minds as dim as ponds While stars swim slowly homeward in the water of our west! Heaven, when will we hear you sing? How long we listened to the silence of our vineyards And heard no bird stir in the rising barley. The stars go home behind the shaggy trees. Our minds are grey as rivers. O earth, when will you wake in the green wheat, And all our Trappist cedars sing: “Bright land, [...]

POETRY: Elias — Variations on a Theme, by Thomas Merton

September 14, 2012

I Under the blunt pine In the winter sun The pathway dies And the wilds begin. Here the bird abides Where the ground is warm And sings alone. Listen, Elias, To the southern wind Where the grass is brown, Live beneath this pine In wind and rain. Listen to the woods, Listen to the ground. O listen, Elias (Where the bird abides And sings alone), The sun grows pale Where passes One Who bends no blade, no fern. Listen to His word. “Where the fields end Thou shalt be My friend. Where the bird is gone Thou shalt be My son.” How the pine burns In the furious sun When the prophets come To Jerusalem. (Listen, Elias, To the covering wing?) To Jerusalem Where the knife is drawn. (Do her children run To the covering wing?) Look, look, My son, At [...]

POETRY: Song For Nobody, by Thomas Merton

September 7, 2012

A yellow flower (Light and spirit) Sings by itself For nobody. A golden spirit (Light and emptiness) Sings without a word By itself. Let no one touch this gentle sun In whose dark eye Someone is awake. (No light, no gold, no name, no color And no thought: O, wide awake!) A golden heaven Sings by itself A song to [...]

POETRY: Stranger, by Thomas Merton

September 7, 2012

When no one listens To the quiet trees When no one notices The sun in the pool Where no one feels The first drop of rain Or sees the last star Or hails the first morning Of a giant world Where peace begins And rages end: One bird sits still Watching the work of God: One turning leaf, Two falling blossoms, Ten circles upon the pond. One cloud upon the hillside, Two shadows in the valley And the light strikes home. Now dawn commands the capture Of the tallest fortune, The surrender Of no less marvelous prize! Closer and clearer Than any wordy master, Thou inward Stranger Whom I have never seen, Deeper and cleaner Than the clamorous ocean, Seize up my silence Hold me in Thy Hand! Now act is waste And suffering undone Laws become prodigals [...]

POETRY: In The Rain And The Sun, by Thomas Merton

September 7, 2012

Watch out for this peeled doorlight! Here, without rain, without shame My noonday dusk made spots upon the walk: Tall drops pelted the concrete with their jewelry Belonging to the old world’s bones. Owning this view, in the air of a hermit’s weather, I count the fragmentary rain In drops as blue as coal Until I plumb the shadows full of thunder. My prayers supervise the atmosphere Till storms call all hounds home. Out of the towers of water Four or five mountains come walking To see the little monks’ graves. Flying the neutral stones I dwell between cedars And see the countries sleeping in their beds: Lands of the watermen, where poplars bend. Wild seas amuse the world with water: No end to all the surfs that charm our [...]

POETRY: Two States Of Prayer, by Thomas Merton

September 7, 2012

In wild October when the low hills lie With open eye And own the land like lions, Our prayer is like the thousands in the far, forgotten stadiums, Building its exultation like a tower of fire, Until the marvelous woods spring to their feet And raid the skies with their red-headed shout: This is the way our hearts take flame And burn us down, on pyres of prayer, with too much glory. But when the trees have all torn up their programs, Scattering the pathos of immense migrations to the open-handed winds, Clouding and saddening the dusky valley, Sorrow begins to bully the bare bars Of those forsaken cages As thought lies slaughtered in the broken doors. But by the light of our December mornings, Though words stand frozen in the voice’s [...]

POETRY: Song, by Thomas Merton

September 7, 2012

When rain, (sings light) rain has devoured my house And wind wades through my trees, The cedars fawn upon the storm with their huge paws. Silence is louder than a cyclone In the rude door, my shelter. And there I eat my air alone With pure and solitary songs While others sit in conference. Their windows grieve, and soon frown And glass begins to wrinkle with a multitude of water Till I no longer see their speech And they no longer know my theater. Rivers clothe their houses And hide their naked wisdom. Their conversations Go down into the deep like submarines: Submerge them, with their pale expressions, in my storm. But I drink rain, drink wind Distinguish poems Boiling up out of the cold forest: Lift to the wind my eyes full of water, My [...]

POETRY: The Sowing Of Meanings, by Thomas Merton

August 31, 2012

See the high birds!  Is their’s the song that flies among the wood-light Wounding the listener with such bright arrows? Or do they play in wheeling silences Defining in the perfect sky The bounds of (here below) our solitude, Where spring has generated lights of green To glow in clouds upon the sombre branches? Ponds full of sky and stillnesses What heavy summer songs still sleep Under the tawny rushes at your brim? More than a season will be born here, nature, In your world of gravid mirrors! The quiet air awaits one note, One light, one ray and it will be the angels’ spring: One flash, one glance upon the shiny pond, and then Asperges me! sweet wilderness, and lo! we are redeemed! For, like a grain of fire Smouldering in the [...]

POETRY: The Word — A Responsory, by Thomas Merton

August 24, 2012

“Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum.” My heart hath uttered. . . Whom we desire to see, Whose thoughts are worlds, And Whose delights Shine like perfections in the universe: Whose admirable joy Burns in the bosom of the triple Light: My heart hath uttered a good Word. Who drives across the stormy hill His flocks of flying sun: In Whom our admiration falls and dies Like the sown seed alighting from the travels of the wind, To rise again when we receive our rain And shoot the earth of April with the blades of greenest praises. My heart hath uttered. . . The vital sap And blood of every growth, Nodding and talking in the rushes To the water, to the way-farer: Verbum bonum! Whose keyless news Unlocks the secret places Of the [...]

POETRY: Seven Archaic Images, by Thomas Merton

August 17, 2012

I Primordial locutions and ventures: A procession to the forest (To Mother Chaos) With bull-roarers and stone knives. A procession to the caves (To the beginning) Womb of a secret hill Paradise Covered inside with animals. II The magic door Wide open. Dance and fire. Blood. Yellow smoke goes straight up. The solemn oath Then, winds. The smoke bends And disappears. (Talons of eagles Black and blue thunder: Desperation.) III The cauldron. North, south, east, west, And in the center The cauldron Seething with enemies. We eat. IV Night council. They stand together Hiding the fire. Night wind rustles Their heavy wings Firelight glitters On the feathercoats. The double axe Shines. O shapeless head, (The Ancestors) O nodding crowns of birds! A [...]

POETRY: A Psalm, by Thomas Merton

August 10, 2012

When psalms surprise me with their music And antiphons turn to rum The Spirit sings: the bottom drops out of my soul And from the center of my cellar, Love, louder than thunder Opens a heaven of naked air. New eyes awaken. I send Love’s name into the world with wings And songs grow up around me like a jungle. Choirs of all creatures sing the tunes Your Spirit played in Eden. Zebras and antelopes and birds of paradise Shine on the face of the abyss And I am drunk with the great wilderness Of the sixth day in Genesis. But sound is never half so fair As when that music turns to air And the universe dies of excellence. Sun, moon and stars Fall from their heavenly towers. Joys walk no longer down the blue world’s shore. Though fires [...]

POETRY: Man the Master, by Thomas Merton

August 3, 2012

Here comes man the master The all-time winner With guns and vehicles Ready to celebrate Six billion busy selves Here he comes Bursting with individuals All his bellies fat and clean Umpire of the big skin game With innumerable wits and plans Nations and names problems and resolutions With all his eyes on spaces Here comes John the Master with his knuckles And his skins all shaved Shining and paid for Assured he smells Like a good example Smart in the dream of dials Where he is alone great With all causes in his own hand This is his lucky day Here comes John with the chin The all-time winner To lead his squad against himself Into the fiery question (Each is his own question Each pumps deadly lights In honor of his own answer Each is his [...]

POETRY: A Whitsun Canticle, by Thomas Merton

July 27, 2012

Olivet, Olivet!  Where heaven robbed us And stole our Christ, and sailed Him to the sky! Oh, on that day His garments fluttered like a thousand flags To see His feet command the sunny air. You did not weep, Jerusalem: your towers and domes Surprised the firmament with smiles of bronze. Oh, could you not console us, you applauding acres Better than the angels and their white command Who packed and shuttered us, in utter beggary, Behind the thin doors of the Cenacle? But blindness falls more lightly than a shell And look, our newborn eyes, as keen as children, Knowing no splash or smear of too much light, Laugh in the sharpest wonder of their vision And drink the oceanic pressure of their sudden glory. Father, Father, Whom we thought so [...]

POETRY: Theory Of Prayer, by Thomas Merton

July 20, 2012

Not in the streets, not in the white streets Nor in the crowded porticoes Shall we catch You in our words, Or lock You in the lenses of our cameras, You Who escaped the subtle Aristotle, Blinding us by Your evidence, Your too clear evidence, Your everywhere. Not in the groves, not in the flowering green groves Where the pretty idols dwell Shall we find the path to Your pavilion Tented in clouds and fire:— We are only following the echo Of our own lyres. The wise man’s blood Freezes in every vein and artery With the blue poison of his own indelible prudence. And the lover, Caught in the loop of his own lie Strangles like a hare: While the singers are suddenly killed, Slain by the blades of their own song— The words that clash [...]

POETRY: Song—Contemplation by Thomas Merton

July 13, 2012

O land alive with miracles! O clad in streams, Countering the silver summer’s pleasant arrows And beating them with the kind armor Of your enkindled water-vesture, Lift your blue trees into the early sun! O country wild with talent Is there an hour in you that does not rouse our mind with songs? The boughs that bend in the weak wind Open us momentary windows, here and there, Into those deep and purple galleries, Disclosing us the birds your genius; And yet the earth is loud With more than this their timid vaudeville. O brilliant wood! Yours is the voice of a new world; And all the hills burn with such blinding art That Christ and angels walk among us, everywhere. These are their ways, their fiery footsteps, That flash and vanish, [...]

POETRY: St. John Baptist, by Thomas Merton

June 29, 2012

I When, for the fifteenth year, Tiberius Caesar Cursed, with his reign, the Roman world, Sharing the Near-East with a tribe of tetrarchs, The Word of God was made in far-off province: Deliverance from the herd of armored cattle, When, from the desert, John came down to Jordan. But his prophetic messages Were worded in a code the scribes were not prepared to understand. Where, in their lexicons, was written: “Brood of vipers,” Applied, that is, to them? “Who is this Lamb, Whose love Shall fall upon His people like an army: Who is this Savior, Whose sandal-latchet This furious Precursor is afraid to loose?” His words of mercy and of patience shall be flails Appointed for the separation of the wheat and chaff. But who shall fear the [...]

POETRY: Landscape — Wheatfields, by Thomas Merton

June 6, 2012

Frown there like Cressy or like Agincourt, You fierce and bearded shocks and sheaves And shake your grain-spears, And know no tremor in your vigilant Your stern array, my summer chevaliers! Although the wagons, (Hear how the battle of those wheels, Worrying the loose wood with their momentary thunder Leaves us to guess some trestle, there, behind the sycamores.) Although the empty wagons come, Rise up, like kings out of the pages of a chronicle And cry your courage in your golden beards; For now the summer-time is half-way done, Gliding to a dramatic crisis Sure as the deep waters to the sedentary mill. Arise like kings and prophets from the pages of an ancient Bible, And blind us with the burnish of your message in our June: Then raise [...]

POETRY: Evening — Zero Weather by Thomas Merton

March 28, 2012

Now the lone world is streaky as a wall of marble With veins of clear and frozen snow. There is no bird song there, no hare’s track No badger working in the russet grass: All the bare fields are silent as eternity. And the whole herd is home in the long barn. The brothers come, with hoods about their faces, Following their plumes of breath Lugging the gleaming buckets one by one. This was a day when shovels would have struck Full flakes of fire out of the land like rock: And ground cries out like iron beneath our boots When all the monks come in with eyes as clean as the cold sky And axes under their arms, Still paying out Ave Marias With rosaries between their bleeding fingers. We shake the chips out of our robes outside the door [...]

POETRY: In Silence, by Thomas Merton

January 3, 2012

Be still. Listen to the stones of the wall. Be silent, they try to speak your name. Listen to the living walls. Who are you? Who are you? Whose silence are you? Who (be quiet) are you (as these stones are quiet). Do not think of what you are still less of what you may one day be. Rather be what you are (but who?) be the unthinkable one you do not know. O be still, while you are still alive, and all things live around you speaking (I do not hear) to your own being, speaking by the unknown that is in you and in themselves. “I will try, like them to be my own silence: and this is difficult. The whole world is secretly on fire. The stones burn, even the stones they burn me. How can a man be still or listen to all things burning? How can he [...]