Thursday, January 26, 2017

O Beata Solitudo: Duo Poematis

Trappist Abbey

When the moon climbs the cloudless sky and stillness pours into valleys pooling waters of silence, I rise from sleep to dress, shuffling off loose dreams like a sack.

Stepping outside, I inhale brisk air like snuff—suddenly, I am a wakeful, a clock about to spring. I toss out bags of sand to rise more quickly.

In the early chill the mountains stand as guardian shadows and night gleams like dragonfly wings.

I am eager for the work of God beckoning at the end of a solitary path just beyond a row of trees bristling at wind snapping like a flag.

Bits of gravel bite at my soles as turning the corner, I lift up my heart at the sight of light spilling gently from the entrance to the church.

Stepping inside, I am greeted by the bright echo of kneelers knocking the stone floor, and softly rustling pages of stapled paper hymnals.

Gradually, ethereal plainchant rises like a river, gathers itself, solidly transforming into one long sonorous brilliant golden bell.

Brown Madonna (1938) by Galo Ocampo

Chester, New Jersey

Beyond the threshold is silence.
Stillness suffuses like light.
The world outside is spinning.
Summer flames at its height.

Solitude is a boon companion.
Self-knowledge climbs like a sloth.
The bed is spare, a thin beard.
The rocking chair is a moth.

Dig in a cave in darkness.
Toss out handfuls of soil.
Bake bread in your heart, an oven.
Bring steaming thirst to a boil.

Listen for the least word of power.
Pierce yourself with a sword.
Afternoon deepens day shadows.
The sun is a violent lord.

Dusk emanates blood-red rays.
All trials in an instant will pass.
Gaze upon woods colored jade.
Dream dreams of emerald grass.

Bethlehem—when the trees say nothing


  1. Credits - original publication:

    “Hermits of Bethlehem,” The Penmen Review (July 29, 2015)


  2. “Why do I live alone? I don’t know. some mysterious way I am condemned to it. ...I cannot have enough of the hours of silence when nothing happens. When the clouds go by. When the trees say nothing. When the birds sing. I am completely addicted to the realization that just being there is enough, and to add something else is to mess it all up. It would be so much more wonderful to be all tied up in someone...and I know inexorably that this is not for me. It is a kind of life from which I am absolutely excluded. I can’t desire it. I can only desire this absurd business of trees that say nothing, of birds that sing, of a field in which nothing ever happens (except perhaps that a fox comes and plays, or a deer passes by).”

    In Thomas Merton, When the Trees Say Nothing (2003), page 177

    For Merton, the silence of the trees is a fullness, not an emptiness. The trees say something.


  3. “O beata solitudo, o sola beatitudo!”

    Beata solitudo, sola beatitudo: Attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux but now known to come from the work of Cornelius Muys (1500-1572), a Dutch priest, humanist, poet, and contemporary of the well-known humanist Desiderius Erasmus.



    Original source of quote: Cornelius Muys, Vigilate et orate. Solitudo siue Vita solitaria, laudata: Cornelio Musio Delpho Encomiaste (1566).

    Publisher: Antuerpiae: ex officina Christophori Plantini.

    Grosenor Print of this book is no longer available.