Monday, November 13, 2017

Thomas Merton*

Thomas Merton (1915—1968) is the author of more than seventy books, including his best-selling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948). His first poetry collection Thirty Poems (New Directions) appeared in 1944, followed by A Man in the Divided Sea (1946).

Merton had long been interested in Eastern religions — not for their doctrines, but for what they said about human experience. He was absolutely committed to Christianity, but felt that people of other faiths would also be committed to their own. He was influential through his promotion of inter-faith dialogue, and as a pacifist during the time of the race riots and anti-war protests of the 1960s.

He died while attending an inter-faith conference in Bangkok, Thailand — having been electrocuted in an accident with an electric fan after stepping from the bath. He is buried in Kentucky at the Trappist Monastery, Gethsemani Abbey.

For My Brother — Missing In Action 1943

Sweet brother, if I do not sleep
My eyes are flowers for your tomb;
And if I cannot eat my bread,
My fasts shall live like willows where you died.
If in the heat I find no water for my thirst,
My thirst shall turn to springs for you, poor traveller.

Where, in what desolate and smokey country,
Lies your poor body, lost and dead?
And in what landscape of disaster
Has your unhappy spirit lost its road?

Come, in my labor find a resting place
And in my sorrows lay your head,
Or rather take my life and blood
And buy yourself a better bed

—Or take my breath and take my death
And buy yourself a better rest.

When all the men of war are shot
And flags have fallen into dust,
Your cross and mine shall tell men still
Christ died on each, for both of us.

For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,
And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring:
The money of Whose tears shall fall
Into your weak and friendless hand,
And buy you back to your own land:

The silence of Whose tears shall fall
Like bells upon your alien tomb.
Hear them and come: they call you home.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Thomas Merton: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His latest poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.