Thursday, January 31, 2013


From "The Writer's Almanac" for January 31, 2013:

It's the birthday of Thomas Merton, born in Prades, France (1915). Merton was a Trappist monk, but he was also the author of more than 50 books, 2,000 poems, and a personal diary that spanned much of his lifetime.

Merton decided to write his master's thesis on William Blake, and he found himself deeply influenced by Blake. He converted to Christianity, and in 1941 he entered a Trappist abbey in Kentucky, where he remained for most of his life. In his diary from this time, Merton wrote, "Going to the Trappists is exciting. I return to the idea again and again: 'Give up everything, give up everything!'" Merton had become well-known throughout the world, in part because of his writing, in particular his autobiography
The Seven Story Mountain (1948).

I know that it isn't Poetry Friday but this is special. I'll write more of Merton in one of my reflections on turning 70, but for today, in honor of his birthday--in honor of how my life was changed / is changing because of this "saint," here's his poem:

In memoriam: Father Louis—“I would be a saint”

You come to me dancing
lightly on the balls of your
feet, robe swaying,
blue jeans revealed beneath,
singing, tap-dancing to
rhythms found in the
beat of your mystic heart.

Some say lop-sided; some: impish;
a crooked smile on your face,
inviting me to join another
Dance. You say, don’t worry
about your bearlike clumsiness
lack of natural rhythms,
tone deafness, and monotone.

Join me, you say: join the Dance
join the Dancer—allow
his holy grace to
transform your elephant toes;
to fit your gooney feet with
ballet slippers, tap shoes
Or ballroom black pattens.

You come, smiling,
singing some song of silent mirth;
you come, grinning,
calling forth my grin;
irresistible, contagious, it
breaks like morning sun across the pain—
Gilead balm.

Your bent knees—
silent before the Silence of God—
bend my knees to serve that Silence.

Join me, you say, remember—
The Dancer took my resistant feet,
clumsy, at first, hesitant and cautious
at strange new steps, tuned them
to Silent songs, deepest rhythms,
and bade me dance.

Join me, you say, hand outstretched
to mine; your other stretched to
the One—and you join us—through
your grasp I grasp
the Hand of the Dancer:
and the three of us—
awkward Trinity—
trip the fantastic light,
filled with mystic joy.

—amk (12/10/93)

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