POETRY: The Victory, by Thomas Merton

Sing your new song in the winepress where these bloody pence
Weep from the skin of our Gethsemani,
Knowing that we must die to break the seed our prison

And spring like wheat from the wet earth
Of who knows what arena:
Sing when the grinding locks
Break up our little cages,
Casting our exultation in those mills of teeth
To praise God with the great Ignatius Martyr.

Smile in the white eyes of the angry mist
For we have heard the thunder of the thousand harpers
Outside a blinded window,
There on the silent cobblestones,
Ring from the hobnails of a firing-squad
Hard by the russet, russet wall.

Shall we not love You, Christ,
Best in a shuttered house,
Although the silver windows sweat with dread?
Shall we not praise You, Savior,
Now at the rising of the sickle moon, our murderess,
When dawn is colder than a knife
Between the marrow and the flesh?

This is the word You utter
To search our being to its roots:
This is the judgment and the question
And the joy we suffer:
This is our trial, this the weight of gladness that we cannot bear,
But turn to water and to blood.

For some have gone, with bands, to die in battle,
Some die, with glory, in the sea:
Some with speeches, some by guns,
But we, like Peter, upside down.

Pride cannot jail us in the newsreels
For a death so humble.
That is the gladness that unlocks our chrysalis:
We have no grandeur and no name.
For who shall try to pay us money for our blinded faces,
And our broken gait:
Or who shall praise us, falling all the way to Calvary?

The customs never catch us
With the stars our contraband
The day we hear the quiet gravel
Suddenly swearing at the steps of the Gestapo!

Then shall our hearts not sing
With vision and with victory
Because our eyes are full of blood?
Shall we not love you better, Brothers,
Wearing beneath the rags of our disguise
The Christ Who died for us?

Look up, you captives, crowding to the water,
Look up, Ezechiel, and see the open heavens
Salute you with the vision of the winged Evangelists.
You with your ankles in the water and your garments white,
Lift up your heads, begin to sing:
And let your sights, exulting, rise and meet
The miracle of living creatures
In their burning, frowning flight.
The message of their lamps and fires
Warns you: make ready for the Face that speaks like lightning,
Sets free the song of everlasting glory
That now sleeps, in your paper flesh, like dynamite.

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