Thursday, March 17, 2011

Thomas Merton’s silver dagger

Joan Baez and Ira Sandperl visited Thomas Merton
on Friday, December 8th, 1966

Gray morning, gray walls
The feast of the Immaculate Conception
Dull, aches in the back and elbow, eyes
From pages read, and writing, too late
Lamp still on, is there a fresh bulb?
Strain, more pain, water, the pills, slippers
Denim, sweater, sweating at night, sleepless
Gethsemani spelled that way, here, hermitage
Without a hermit, boil water, tea, toast
Leftover bowl from yesterday, windows
Over desk, typewriter return stuck again
Books marked, pencils dull, pen capped
Ache to write, but today they come
Ira and Joan, Margie whispers
From the drawer, drawing in, letters
Tied with string from the wrapped gift
Noël from Joan, side two, stylus drops
Like a silver dagger into the canyon spinning
Vertiginous, someone offered that word
Spinning whirlpool, black, labelled, jacket
Warmer, tea sip, toast crunch, lunch?
They arrive at noon, goat cheese
Honey, half a jar, more bread, sweep
The crumbs from last night, the sustenance
Of her, haunts, taunts but doesn’t tease
Memory of Ascension Day in May, picnic
Talk, long strings of words, immense
The letter opener shines
Silver dagger that sliced through conscience matter
Labelled lies literal, fooled the gate keepers
Slipped in slots, ascending the long embrace
One single close braided untangled, then undone
In the Spring sun, shadows, trees
Today they come, she’s always here, floating
On blank paper pages whispering, come
Tell me again, what you said
Did I really say that, this dangerous game
Scattered slips of notes, decipher, archive, trust
Entrust these fragrant leaves, bound?
Perhaps, the diary for her, poetry, longings
Phone calls in the cellar, locked door
Knowing glances, lectures, references of love
To love, that is all, end of statement
Beginning of the ending, Amen
What to say today, Ira wants peace
Joan wants, just wanting to talk, there
They come with him, don’t sing love songs…
Up and awake, up to the gatehouse
Father Crysogonus, hugs, smiles, a walk
To the tobacco fields, she runs, sailor pants
Black like her hair, Ira talking, the four of us
Wandering, dreaming, scheming, what if?
Why not leave for a time he says, Crysogonus smiles
Winks as Ira goes on, we go on further
Joan wait, you’ll get lost here
Lost, here, sometimes that way
Travelling in books, navigating journals, time
Ticks on the typewriter, slips from the stylus
Cannot leave, politics, parties, war echoes
Voices in need of a voice, sing then, sing
Circle around, the dirt road moist, packed
Shoes crunch gravel, gavels of judgement
Speaking of which, meet the Abbot
Dom, dominant, surely, leader, bleeder
Knowing smiles, hands shake, greet, slide
Hide the letters again, don’t burn them
Stop the calls, hear the calling, whispers
Confessions, delicious transgressions, picnics
Crysogonus waves, afternoon prayer over there
Somewhere, places etched
Lunches, the special booth, airport, landings
Gliding over this formal how does one do
Don’t sing love songs, you’ll awaken
She didn’t like him, she said
Ira smiles, shakes his head
Politics? Right here, baby, right here
So Bob’s a pain in the ass? What’s his problem
Tell, a secret or two, an insight, unfair
He’s not here, with blonde on blonde
Right here, he sent that too
Her hair was dark like yours. Who?
Play blonde on blonde, two disks, thick
Side Two, getting past that
I want you…stuck inside…skin, just like a woman
We made love, tell them. Who?
Margie, say her name out loud, just did
Margie who…loves me, Nurse.
Remember the back? Back when, March, April
Here, all of these, and these, have a read
Untie the bows, keep the string, stacked in time
Temporary like Achilles, ankle pain
Read on, just read, every word, her pen strokes
While gathering honey, bread, goat cheese
From the kitchen to the desk, decked
He did, who? After singing? Why?
Absolutely sweet, the fourth and fifth time around
Almost Noël time, pull the dagger out
Thrust it in right there, slice the cheese
Pour the tea, drizzle the bread, bed, rugs
On the floor, the very bottom, she floored me
Plain and simple right from the first track
Side two, away in a manger it felt
When she walked in the room, a bath, a sponge
Mad Magazine chuckles, satire
Serious reading, there was more and more
Those days, those talks, those eyes
Cheese crumbles on her lips
Like the ones kissed, cannot, maybe will
In dreams tonight, like the other night
Ira, no, the answer is no, just sit, read
Really, this cannot be, amazing, you?
Her? Her age, not his age, add decades
Matter? It mattered, it does still, love
What does conscience matter mean?
Anyway, in this case, ours
What they have it mean, quite
Quiet about all this, please, never
…different, paper confessions, bless me Father
It wasn’t a sin, it’s been two weeks
Since another letter slipped right in
A friend delivers, another checks
Checks in the mail, royalties
To the order, ordered that way, always
Order, chaos within, serene, calamity
Conscience mattered, seems to have
Quelled it for a time, love still
Love, this room full of it, laughing
Then love her, then go, come
More bread, cheese, honey and tea
More stacks? How many?
Could read this all day long, do
Each day, sliding one envelope from the deck
A wildcard, Queen of Hearts…Silent Night
The end of side two. It’s good, subtle
Not pagan like Bing’s warbles, white Christmas
Learning to love
To the car, drive away? From here? To There?
Ohio, cross the river, first the phone, Bardstown
Ring upon ring, she’s not there, late evening
Bells ring over the grounds, to the airport?
Reservations. Not able to change. Parting.
The what if’s wherefores, how nots, call Jack
Drinks with the Glass Menagerie on TV
Ride back, climb the fence, down the road, Joan
Gone. Ira’s institute without this new member
Swirling day, late night, exhausted, bind the letters
Find the strings, attached like a web
Reading lamp still on, all this time
Stylus down, silver dagger opens the heart
Opens a letter, delivered today, tonight
Conscience matter to slice again.

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