Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Thomas Merton: "In Silence"

Be still
Listen to the stones of the wall.
Be silent, they try
To speak your

To the living walls.
Who are you?
Are you? Whose
Silence are you?

Who (be quiet)
Are you (as these stones
Are quiet). Do not
Think of what you are
Still less of
What you may one day be.
Be what you are (but who?) be
The unthinkable one
You do not know.

O be still, while
You are still alive,
And all things live around you
Speaking (I do not hear)
To your own being,
Speaking by the Unknown
That is in you and in themselves.

“I will try, like them
To be my own silence:
And this is difficult. The whole
World is secretly on fire. The stones
Burn, even the stones
They burn me. How can a man be still or
Listen to all things burning? How can he dare
To sit with them when
All their silence
Is on fire?”

"In Silence" by Thomas Merton, from The Strange Islands: Poems. © New Directions, 1957.

Art credit: Untitled image by unknown photographer.


  1. “Did you know that trees talk? Well they do. They talk to each other, and they’ll talk to you if you listen. Trouble is, white people don’t listen. They never listen to the Indians so I don’t suppose they’ll listen to other voices in nature. But I have learned a lot from trees: sometimes about the weather, sometimes about animals, sometimes about the Great Spirit.”
    Tatanga Mani (Walking Buffalo)

  2. Listening to a Tree

    How do you listen to a tree?
    Not with your ears, only—
    But with your whole being.

    A tree is a presence to whom you open,
    A friend with whom you sit,
    A sage from whom you learn

    To listen to a tree
    Is to return
    To original simplicity,
    Basic sanity--
    Old Lao Tzu's “uncarved block."

    How do you listen to a tree?

    With hushed expectancy—
    As when a mother, awake in the dark,
    Listens for her infant’s cry.

    With soaring harmony--
    As when a singer, losing self,
    Becomes the song.

    Losing self,
    Become the tree.


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