WHEN I WAS A MONK #AntiCiv #silence #God #nature

When I Was a Monk

When I was a monk or whatever it is that I was

for a breeze in the big wooded days out the west

there was only one book which I portioned aloud

to myself on a Sunday, cud-chewed the rest of the week.

For art and characters I lay on the moss-swaddled slab

of a thousand year Chief, watched shape-changing shapes

ceaselessly drift without plot, then dissolve in a sun

wheeling round to a moon that put me into a trance.

I saw thunderous battles in the Epicking stars.

There were no repeats. I was never bored. Weather

was my living music – unscorable, mercurial, diverse;

varying seasons of trees, birds, animals, grasses, insects, seas –

mutable wind’s modulations of these; innumerable rains

on the tracks, on the lake, down on hives, down on huts,

down on limestone, on granite, on canopies, thatch…

Occasional monsoonish burstings that freshened the airs

and galvanised armies of ants. The river whose noises

were never the same. My own organic back catalogue.

Sometimes, passing by near a cliff or a bank a man on

a skiff would be singing of his mother’s death to his daughter.

Or she’d be laughingly singing of newborns to him.

That would do me for a year. I heard angels in Sessiles

and demons in Yew stands disputing my soul. What harm?

All who have souls are disputed and split. Soldierly

drumming from slopes near the fjord; from which

slope exactly, who knew? I couldn’t care less.

No-one can rob from a man who has nothing to give

only brotherly silence in the fathomless silence of God.

Each Spring I would stroll a few days to the coast,

and heave out as deep and as cold as I could

– waking my bones and my joints for the Summer.

Among amiable porpoises I glid and I dove,

gargling along in their gargletalk, as if I were one

of their brood. Each August I stood in a meadow

of storms, my palms stretched up rod-height.

I was struck once or twice by magnificent lightning

from Gabriel’s Horn. My brain bloomed like a desert bush. I was nothing but fire in those instants.

One day I fished a blue baby girl from the lake.

I shrouded her in my own black rags. In guttering

shades of a grove on the bank, ululating wildly

to frighten off animals, I scooped out a grave

and I buried her, with all available ceremony.

For 25 years I did kneel there and weep there

whenever I happened to pass. Daily, I noticed

new curls to a bird cry, new insects I refused

pinning through with name. Names are a hex

on God’s bounty. Extinction begins with a name.

Above all I saw – but it was more than a seeing – how the world stays unowned and unmarked

in its infinite business like an infinite song

only sung by itself inside its own hearing.

No matter who for five minutes yaks

in a vanishing tongue of squaring a rood

in the flow of this world,

driving stakes through fire and flood.