Three Poems

By  |  November 21, 2017
“The First Experiment in Visual Science” (2007), by Lina Tharsing “The First Experiment in Visual Science” (2007), by Lina Tharsing
 
Fragment

When we are alone 
Within the inner wood 
Beyond the trackless ways 
In elemental sleep 

Though evening towns begin to burn 
As copper as chrysanthemums 
And the far cities flower 
Twined in a map of incandescent wires 
No voice from those abounding lights 
Reddens the darkness of our rendezvous. 

No radio has arrows that can find us 
Winged after us with aimless jealousy into the night, our screen. 

In the night of my penniless Genesis 
The worlds are all too old: 
And cities that enchanted me 
Die like the clouds, the children of the sea. 

For no one finds us anymore, Beloved, 
Cradled in the sounding night, the new creation 
That you have made for us alone. 

 

Spencer Reece reads “Fragment”

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Pastoral

Earth’s amniotic atmosphere 
(Wherein winged clouds arch over us) 
Cleaves to the turning globe like flesh 
To feed and light and cover us. 

Above the building stands the flesh, 
Blue, translucent and electric, 
Wherein birds fly and glide and sing, 
Beasts move, trees grow: all geocentric. 

Air mantles us and binds us in 
And carries words about the bone 
(If air is flesh, then earth is bone; 
And neither, thus, will live alone.) 

Coordinating earth and air, 
We line the ground, and plant the seeds, 
And tend the plants, and graze the beasts; 
And wander with them here and there 
With sounds and gesture, words and prayer.

 

Spencer Reece reads “Pastoral”

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Poem

Thief and gambler, in the mind’s Algiers, 
Bicker for a division, in a veil of shade. 
Stillness explodes into a cloud of battlecocks. 
Knife, with a bright tooth, bites the hiding heart. 
Death caws, like copper, in the throat, 
And the dry gambler’s dying like a daw. 

The thief’s a flying shadow: 
Slants up the wall with pockets full of coin, 
And, in the wide sky, disappears. 

But where the sun bullbellows in the mind’s Sahara, 
His money shines on the waterless earth; 
And in his sky of thoughts, his old desires 
Fly back as black as carrion birds, 
And gradual death begins to ring, 
Like gongs, the sunstruck canyon’s quiet stones, 

Until the nameless traveler learns in terror 
His lidless eyes are open targets— 
Where sudden night flings in her quiet spear. 

He hears ring shut the clangorous gates of day, 
And sees eternity hang open like a pit. 

Meanwhile, the distant kites become companions, 
Loving him for what was once his flesh. 

 

Spencer Reece reads “Poem”

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Poems published with permission of the Trustees of the Thomas Merton Legacy Trust. 


Special thanks to Spencer Reece for reading Thomas Merton’s poems. Reece, an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, was a longlist nominee for the National Book Award for his poetry collection The Road to Emmaus (2013). His honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.


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Thomas Merton (1915–1968) is arguably the most influential American Catholic author of the twentieth century. For more than a quarter century he lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani, a Trappist monastery near Bards-town, Kentucky. This issue includes three of his previously unpublished poems.