Will you please be quiet please: Me and Mr Merton

NYGE1-Minh-vow_400 x 292Down at the monastery, resting my brain, I ran into Brother Isaac who is also the poet John Slater, and we basically blew up the silence rule by discussing   erasure poems, 52 Men, Raymond Carver, Carolyn Forche, and Slater’s book of poems Surpassing Pleasure  for two hours non-stop in a room off the abbey.

Later,  I was listening to a talk by Father John Eudes, who had been Abbot for some 30 years, and a monk for 66. “Suddenly, at at any moment,” Eudes was saying, “you will be facing death. Your  bodies are chemicals, 97 percent hydrogen and so on, and you will dissolve.”

Most people, he said, especially those with a higher education, had no idea of what more there might be.  He looked around, lowered his eyes, lifted them up again. I mean, he asked, “How can people be so dull?

A little later, out in bookstore by the Monks Bread Shop, I realized that Eudes was actually Father Eudes Bamberger — author of the book Thomas Merton : Prophet of Rewewal — that Eudes had known Merton for 18 years and screened applicants to the Abbey with him.

Imagine, I thought,  that John Eude’s hands had touched Merton’s. And not only that, but that Merton — Eudes told me — had written so much at the monastery he had exhausted both of his secretaries who came to Eudes privately and said, Please, could you get this guy to slow down a bit, Please?

Merton died in 1968, electrocuted by a fan when stepping out of a bath in Thailand. He was 53. Father Eudes was  the American who identified his body when it was flown back in to the States.

It’s all so fantastic, what you discover when you set out to rest the brain. As Brother Isaac writes in Surpassing, all of which poems I tried to read down  in a great rush down there at the Abbey of Genesee:


… here in the green world between

eternal fields of light

there is time

there is ample, empty, time

to acknowledge

all that is passing….


About louisewleonard

Author of 52 Men, Since You Ask, and others Also in The Rumpus, Tin House, Fiction Advocate, Gargoyle.
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