The Book of Hours begins at twilight, that liminal hour, and in autumn, a season of between-ness and boundary.
It's morning: bright, ordinary. Work calls, and I sneer in it's general direction, ignoring the fact that coming to peace with it might hold the real key to my metaphysical discontent. Viz: Dogen's Instructions to the Cook.
Writing lauds and the little hours will be more difficult.
Why are these Christian monastic forms so compelling ? The Dalai Lama counseled hewing to one's own natal faith. There's some wisdom there.
Religions might be languages, all of which discuss the same thing. At least that wager is what has allowed me to even glance in the general direction of Christianity.
There's much in it that repells and revolts.
Merton has made it it tolerable, even attractive.
CHARLES RIVER, SEPTEMBER VESPERS
Before the river and the path diverge
and meadow yields to vine-choked stands of trees,
the chest-high horseweed bows, swaying like fronds
waved in hosannah: Go. The dark woods call,
it seems to say. Evening and winter, too.
Fulfill the scripture coiled in all your cells.
O gracious twilight, linger long enough
that I might read the wayside book of hours
from touch-me-not to loosestrife just once more
before I’m called to seed, to night, to ice
from Vesper’s interzone of neither nor.
God hides here, wordless, cipher absolute.
IN THE NIGHT OFFICE
--Till elevators drop us from our day...
It’s overtime in ordinary time,
when everything inclement, hateful, sour
prepares for night. My window overlooks
a vista of illuminated cells.
In each a figure leans above its desk,
as I do mine, mini- and marginal.
We are the faithful drones, professionals
of ora et labora. Here we sit
accounting for the daily flux of bread
transcorporate. Our credo’s in the Real
Presence of value in unredeemed scrip.
We broker. Trust us with your savings. Please.
But it’s compline, and even mendicants
may have their quiet nights, their perfect ends
to never-perfect days, if not by work
by grace: an easy chair, a lamp, a book,
some wine that’s simply wine, cigar cigar,
and something gentle, loving, sweet, untouched,
untouchable but near enough. Then bed.
-- Nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine.
LATE AUGUST VIGILS
This night, and every night, it is the same question.
T. Merton, “Fire Watch”
She woke. It was too still, too dark, too hot.
The clock sat blank, its red tally erased.
The fanblade, stalled, poised frozen in its cage.
Outside, the dreadlocks of the Norway spruce
hung motionless before a scrim of cloud.
Below, the streetlight neither buzzed nor shone.
Who’d set the nighttime’s preferences to not ?
The moon was AWOL. Tides and waves shut down.
Both East- and Western Zodiacs unstrung:
the rooster, snake and rat, the fish and crab
all scuttled under highboys, fell asleep.
She heard speravit anima mea
in Domino as if there were a choir
of Trappists chanting a custodia
matutina usque ad noctem there
beneath her bedroom window, Romeos
awaiting their Bridegroom, pitching their woo
de profundis. Or just tinnitus ? Snores
from her own bridegroom stirred the heavy air
above her bedsheets’ vasomotor damp.
“Moonpause,” she translated. Her vulgate warned
of coming cold and darkness, polar night.
Her vigil just begun, she prayed for light.