Thomas Merton (1915—1968) was a mystic and a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. His first book of poems was published in 1944; he became well known after the publication of his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain in 1948. He was also known for his interaction with leaders of other religions, particularly Buddhists, and for his pacifism and social justice concerns.
He believed that the best poetry is contemplation of things, and what they signify. He wrote that “all things...are symbolic by their very being and nature, and all talk of something beyond themselves. Their meaning is not something we impose upon them, but a mystery which we can discover in them...”
From 1941 until the end of his life, he spent most of his time at the monastery in Kentucky.
When I was Saul, and sat among the cloaks,
My eyes were stones, I saw no sight of heaven,
Open to take the spirit of the twisting Stephen.
When I was Saul and sat among the rocks,
I locked my eyes, and made my brain my tomb,
Sealed with what boulders rolled across my reason!
When I was Saul and walked upon the blazing desert
My road was quiet as a trap.
I feared what word would split high noon with light
And lock my life, and try to drive me mad:
And thus I saw the Voice that struck me dead.
Tie up my breath, and wind me in white sheets of anguish,
And lay me in my three days’ sepulchre
Until I find my Easter in a vision.
Oh Christ! Give back my life, go, cross Damascus,
Find out my Ananias in that other room:
Command him, as you do, in this my dream;
He knows my locks, and owns my ransom,
Waits for Your word to take his keys and come.
This is the first Kingdom Poets post about Thomas Merton: second post
Entry written by D.S. Martin. He is the award-winning author of the poetry collections Poiema (Wipf & Stock) and So The Moon Would Not Be Swallowed (Rubicon Press). They are both available at: www.dsmartin.ca