This is one of my favorite poems (certainly one of Merton’s best) about my favorite time of year, a time when the leaves are nearly gone in a final splash of color and light and the world is preparing for the coming of winter. It’s a time to look back, but more, a time to look ahead to the coming of the light. I hope you enjoy.
St Malachy – A Poem by Thomas Merton
When air smells cold as earth,
St. Malachy, who is very old, gets up,
Parts the thin curtain of trees and dawns upon our land.
His coat is filled with drops of rain, and he is bearded
With all the seas of Poseidon.
(Is it a crozier, or a trident in his hand?)
He weeps against the gothic window, and the empty cloister
Mourns like an ocean shell.
Two bells in the steeple
Talk faintly to the old stranger
And the tower considers his waters.
“I have been sent to see my festival,” (his cavern speaks!)
“For I am the saint of the day.
Shall I shake the drops from my locks and stand in your transept,
Or, leaving you, rest in the silence of my history?”
So the bells rang and we opened the antiphoners
And the wrens and larks flew up out of the pages.
Our thoughts became lambs. Our hearts swam like the seas.
One monk believed that we should sing to him
Some stone-age hymn.