Sharing A Poem by Thomas Merton

I love poetry. I love writing and reading it. I am new to the poetry of the Catholic Monk, Thomas Merton. I have only read two of his poems and they are rather...wow. I wanted to share this poem because it gripped me with the sight into a layer of truth about humanity within a city. It makes me think of Babylon described in the book of Revelation. What are your thoughts on this poem?


Hymn of Not Much Praise for New York City

By Thomas Merton

When the windows of the West Side clash like cymbals in the setting sunlight,

And when wind wails amid the East Side’s aerials,

And when, both north and south of thirty-fourth street,

In all the dizzy buildings,

The elevators clack their teeth and rattle the bars of their cages,

Then the children of the city,

Leaving the monkey-houses

of their office-buildings and apartments,

With the greatest difficulty open their mouths, and sing:

“Queen among the cities of the Earth: New York!

Rich as a cake, common as a doughnut,

Expensive as a fur and crazy as cocaine,

We love to hear you shake

Your big face like a shining bank

Letting the mad world know you’re full of dimes!


”This is your night to make maracas out of all that metal money

Paris is in the prison-house, and London dies of cancer.

This is the time for you to whirl,

Queen of our hopped-up peace,

And let the excitement of your somewhat crippled congas

Supersede the waltzes of more shining

Capitals that have been bombed.


“Meanwhile we, your children,

Weeping in our seasick zoo of windows while you dance,

Will gobble aspirins,

And try to keep our cage from caving in.

All the while our minds will fill with these petitions,

Flowering quietly in between our gongs of pulse.

These will have to serve as prayers:


“ ‘O lock us in the safe jails of thy movies!

Confine us to the semiprivate wards and white asylums

Of the unbearable cocktail parties, O New York!

Sentence us for life to the penitentiaries of thy bars and nightclubs,

And leave us stupefied forever by the blue, objective lights

That fill the pale infirmaries of thy restaurants,

And the clinics of thy schools and offices,

And the operating-rooms of thy dance-halls.


“ ‘But never give us any explanations, even when we ask,

Why all our food tastes of iodoform (chloroform)

And even the freshest flowers smell of funerals.

No, never let us look about us long enough to wonder

Which of the rich men, shivering in the overheated office,

And which of the poor men, sleeping face-down on the Daily Mirror,

Are still alive, and which are dead.’ ”



~~~~~~

Photo by Dan Calderwood on Unsplash

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