POETRY: There Has To Be A Jail For Ladies by Thomas Merton

There Has To Be A Jail For Ladies by Thomas Merton

There has to be a jail where ladies go
When they are poor, without nice things, and with their hair down.
When their beauty is taken from them, when their hearts are broken
There is a jail where they must go.

There has to be a jail for ladies, says the Government,
When they are ugly because they are wrong.
It is good for them to stay there a long time
Until the wrong is forgotten.

When no one wants to kiss them any more,
Or only wants to kiss them for money
And take their beauty away
It is right for the wrong to be unheard of for a long time
Until the ladies are not remembered.

But I remember one favorite song,
And you ladies may not have forgotten:
“Poor broken blossom, poor faded flower,” says my song.

Poor ladies, you are jailed roses:
When you speak you curse, when you curse
God and Hell are rusted together in one red voice
Coming as sweet as dust out of a little hollow heart.
Is there no child, then, in that empty heart?

Poor ladies, if you ever sang
It would be brown notes and sad, from understanding too much
No amount of soapsy sudsy supersuds will make you
Dainty again and not suilty
Until the very end, when you are all forgotten.
There is a jail, where guilt is not forgotten.

Not many days, or many years of that stale wall, that smell of disinfectant
Trying, without wanting, to kill your sin
Can make you innocent again:
So I come with this sad song
I love you, dusty and sore,
I love you, unhappy ones.

You are jailed buttercups, you are small field flowers,
To me your voice is not brown
Nor is God rusted together with Hell.
Tell me, darlings, can God be in Hell?
You may curse; but He makes your dry voice turn to butter
(Though for the policeman it is still brown)
God becomes your heart’s prisoner, He will laugh at judges.
He will laugh at the jail.
He will make me write this song.

Keep me in your pocket if you have one. Keep me in your heart if you have no pocket.
It is not right for your sorrow to be unknown forever.
Therefore I come with these voices:

Poor ladies, do not despair—
God will come to your window with skylarks
And pluck each year like a white rose.

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