Forever In Place
The Poetry of Brother Paul Quenon, OSCO
Brother Paul Quenon is a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. The Abbey of course was once home to Thomas Merton. And it was Merton’s The Seven Story Mountain—the tale of his journey from playboy to monk—that led a seventeen-year old Paul Quenon and many others to monastic life. Quenon entered the monastery in 1958. He’s been there ever since. In the ensuing decades, along with work and prayer, he has written volumes of poetry and taken many photographs. He has a keen sense of sight, to be sure, but it is the vision of eternity with which his work his shot through that opens both eye and soul. It appears alongside the ordinary—if there really is such a thing—and everyday of the here and now. He hints at the fullness that abounds in the emptiness that surrounds.
Confessions of a Dead-Beat Monk
Of course, I’ve set the same bench
brushing off flies and thoughts,
how many years? What winters of
silence and summer variations,
what prodigious mockingbirds
I’ve heard! And that kitchen job!
Broccoli and spuds on Mondays,
rice twice a week, and Oh,
toasted cheese sandwiches,
Fridays! This diet of psalms,
fifty and hundred, runs ever
on from bitter to sweet,
returns like the sun to bow
and stand. And I tread the same
stairs and stare at walls, blank
or lit rose and gold. I rise
with whippoorwills singing
at 3, though night ever keeps
its secret from me, ‘till in
its treasure I’m locked.
Then I will be what always
has been, that enigma of
now and the then.