Monday, February 2, 2015

Two Poems for Thomas Merton's 100th Birthday

Thomas Merton Follows the Spirit into Flesh

In the mid 1960s, you, Thomas Merton, most famous Catholic in America.
Convert, poet, celibate monk, famous author of
Seven-Storey Mountain and so many books on spirituality--nobody

Thought you an ordinary man, but you were not fooled.
So it didn’t surprise you when you fell in love with your nurse
When hospitalized in Louisville--for a bad back and an aching

Spirit. You fell like a 17-year-old boy, which in a way you were
(and that’s one reason we loved you!). And you ached to kiss her,
Wanted her hand on your chest, wanted to love her fully, knew you were “in deep.”

The Spirit moves in ways no one can predict,
And you tried to follow Her, embrace the grace,
See where it would bring you both


[Bob Coughlin / June 21, 2014]

Thomas Merton Burns M.’s Letters

You, Thomas Merton, who so carefully made carbon copies of all your correspondence,
Gathered your letters to M
And hers to you,

And out behind the Hermitage
Lit the flame--as if they were trash
(Or maybe something holy and sacramental--
that could only be disposed of by sacred fire).

These letters displayed your humanity
writ large and bold,
but contradicted the Abbott’s orders

and made clear the ambivalence in your own heart:

The need to be held, to kiss, to be touched, to touch--
for a while trumped vows made to an abstract Church
and an invisible God.

The fire consumed the precious words on paper,
but what of the words written on your heart,
on M’s heart? O Thomas Merton.

[Bob Coughlin / July 2, 2014]

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