Elegy for A Trappist

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Trappist monks welcoming a stranger (detail), Jules-Joseph Dauban, 1864

 

[This poem first appeared in the December 9, 1966 issue of Commonweal]

(Fr. M. Stephen, O.C.S.O.)

Maybe the martyrology until today
Has found no fitting word to describe you
Confessor of exotic roses
Martyr of unbelievable gardens

Whom we will always remember
As a tender-hearted careworn
Generous unsteady cliff
Lurching in the cloister
Like a friendly freight train
To some uncertain station

Master of the sudden enthusiastic gift
In an avalanche
Of flower catalogues
And boundless love.

Sometimes a little dangerous at corners
Vainly trying to smuggle
Some enormous and perfect bouquet
To a side altar
In the sleeves of your cowl

In the dark before dawn
On the day of your burial
A big truck with lights
Moved like a battle cruiser
Toward the gate
Past your abandoned and silent garden

The brief glare
Lit up the grottos, pyramids and presences
One by one
Then the gate swung red
And clattered shut in the giant lights
And everything was gone

As if Leviathan
Hot on the scent of some other blood
Had passed you by
And never saw you
Hiding among the flowers.

Thomas Merton was the author of "Man in the Divided Sea," and many other books. He was a member of the Trappist Community at Gethsemani, KY. He died December 10, 1968.

Also by this author
In the Ruins of New York
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