Aubade-Harlem

By Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

for Baroness G. de Hueck

Across the cages of the keyless aviaries,
The lines and wires, the gallows of the broken kites,   
Crucify, against the fearful light,
The ragged dresses of the little children.
Soon, in the sterile jungles of the waterpipes and ladders,   
The bleeding sun, a bird of prey, will terrify the poor,   
These will forget the unbelievable moon.

But in the cells of whiter buildings,
Where the glass dawn is brighter than the knives of surgeons,   
Paler than alcohol or ether, shinier than money,
The white men’s wives, like Pilate’s,
Cry in the peril of their frozen dreams:

“Daylight has driven iron spikes,
Into the flesh of Jesus’ hands and feet:
Four flowers of blood have nailed Him to the walls of Harlem.”

Along the white halls of the clinics and the hospitals   
Pilate evaporates with a cry:
They have cut down two hundred Judases,
Hanged by the neck in the opera houses and the museum.

Across the cages of the keyless aviaries,
The lines and wires, the gallows of the broken kites,   
Crucify, against the fearful light,
The ragged dresses of the little children.

Thomas Merton, “Aubade—Harlem” from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton. Copyright 1948 by New Directions Publishing Corporation, copyright © 1977 by The Trustees of the Merton Legacy Trust. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1977)

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Poet Thomas James Merton 1915–1968

Subjects Christianity, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Religion

Biography

A monk who lived in isolation for several years, and one of the most well-known Catholic writers of the twentieth century, Thomas Merton was a prolific poet, religious writer, and essayist whose diversity of work has rendered a precise definition of his life and an estimation of the significance of his career difficult. Merton was a Trappist, a member of a Roman Catholic brotherhood known for its austere lifestyle and vow of . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Christianity, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life, Religion

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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