Hugh MacDonald

At Merton’s Hermitage

Five poets sit
in a sort of symmetry
our awkward placement of hands
reading like young actors
unused to the stage
suspended somewhere between
giddiness and serenity.
How like boys we are
our casual shoes
our worn blue jeans
John B. somewhat
out-of-sync in green
our dew-stained cuffs
soaked while sponging
through full blown
wild Kentucky grass
after Gethsemane’s
massive breakfast of porridge
and eggs, jams and jellies
clumps of peanut butter
racks of perfect toast
steaming cups of tea
then, the air alive
with butterflies and gnats
Brother Paul
and Marty in the lead
John inquiring after
leaf and blade of grass
we stroll a swath
like Merton cut
through domesticated wild places
from the working monastery
to his Hermitage on the hill.
We look about inside
meditate on this concrete cell
that briefly housed
the soul that was his life
our gift the sharing
of his human frailties
his familiar temptations
his hypnotic soaring range of words
then we humbly sit at this shrine
while below us the long view
spans acres of wood and grass
the downward sloping field before
bends toward the world’s gate
our thoughts for the moment
temperate and peaceful
reflect the shimmer of summer
the shade tree beyond the porch
while behind us the empty bed
where Merton slept and didn’t
where within him wrestled
the love of internal peace
the turmoil of animal joy
the mad man-parts
that we all share
the saints we sometimes are
the beasts we can become
the blackened hearth
that conjures fiery pits
and writhing monsters
that we still smell today
separated by time and space
thankful for each garnered day
for light upon awakening
in dread of one last morning
that ends abruptly in darkness.

audio version

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