POETRY: Seven Archaic Images, by Thomas Merton

seven archaic images thomas merton

I

Primordial locutions and ventures:
A procession to the forest
(To Mother Chaos)
With bull-roarers and stone knives.

A procession to the caves
(To the beginning)
Womb of a secret hill
Paradise
Covered inside with animals.

II

The magic door
Wide open.
Dance and fire.
Blood.

Yellow smoke goes straight up.

The solemn oath
Then, winds.

The smoke bends
And disappears.

(Talons of eagles
Black and blue thunder:
Desperation.)

III

The cauldron.
North, south, east, west,
And in the center
The cauldron
Seething with enemies.

We eat.

IV

Night council.
They stand together
Hiding the fire.

Night wind rustles
Their heavy wings
Firelight glitters
On the feathercoats.

The double axe
Shines.

O shapeless head, (The Ancestors)
O nodding crowns of birds!
A magic answer!

V

Winter morning: banners and snow.
They stand upon the monument
Living presences
Of the winged dead.

History begins again
With sacrifice.

Drums,
Banners and snow.

VI

Feathered images
Of kings and heroes.
Monsters in pursuit.

Man-eating war
Shakes the land with drums:
The sacred enclosure
The house of omens and weapons.

Bring coins, jewels, women and victims,
Bring sacred whores
To the hieratic city.

O great dishonorable beast, War,
Cockroach and millionaire,
Snake-eyed cousin of pestilence
Why do we dance for you,
Why do we dance to exhaustion?

VII

Music
The sadness of laws:
The toys of the gods
Dance.

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