Poems by Brother Paul Quenon

Photo by Brother Paul Quenon

Detail of Cowls on Pegs by Brother Paul Quenon

The Cowl

–solemn as chant,
one sweep of fabric
from head to foot.
Cowls hanging
on a row of pegs—
tall disembodied spirits
holding shadows
deep in the folds
waiting for light,
for light to shift
waiting for a bell
for the reach of my hand
to spread out the slow
wings, release the
shadows and envelope my
prayer-hungry body
with light.

My Novices: late 1950s

Young men came
looking for
–don’t know what–
Left the place
looking for
-don’t know what–
Of these I had no regrets.

Some came, seemed like
looking–
heard some talk about
-what-
stayed awhile
and left
talking like– Well,–
like somewhat.

Serious young men came looking.
took up talk about,
-don’t know what,
stayed long and left
talking
about everything what-not.

Some came completely
clear and sure about
what–
Those I sent away.

Silent young men, a few,
came looking for–
don’t know what-
stayed
and kept on looking
stayed and never got to
what–
wore out,
died,
had never stopped looking for
what–
For these I have no regrets.

All of these I loved, but
seems the part I loved the best
was–
don’t know what–

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
sameness between
now and the then.

My Last Poem

When I write my last poem
it will not say good-by
to poetry, but hello to itself,

will heave a glad sigh
it got into the world
before the door closed,

will look to its companion poems,
that it might have place
among these orphans,

that they might reach out hands
in company to go together
into oblivion or into memory,

or to some secret cove
where eternity sits,
from time to time, and reads.

Photo by Brother Paul Quenon

Photo by Brother Paul Quenon

  • Dr. Dapo

    I see the world that is in fire all the time, fire in the nation, in every one of those 194 nations, there is fire burning. But, I wonder who is putting the fire out. I found–God says, and I believe that every human being is made in the image of God. Thou shall not kill–the six commandment. Moses gave us this commandment and our Lord approved it, sanctioned it. I like it, as a matter of fact, it is not just liking it, I practice it.

    My nation, the US, in many communities across the nation, people heard about the murder of the most truculent, must wicked man in the century, there was jubilation. What keeps coming to mind is –thou shall not kill. Th US authority claims justice. ‘For the day of the Lord is near against all nations. As you have done, it shall be done to yu; your deeds shall return on your head.’–Obadiah1:15.

    I wonder where you fit in! I keep praying. For the Lord has the last word.

  • Ken Gradomski

    May God bless that inner force: to spill a few words which causes one spirit to touch another, to touch many, to move us all…

  • Sheila M. Milton

    Thank you Paul for your poems of the heart, they are a beautiful gift.And, I treasure the Haiku that you wrote for me and gave me at the celebration of the birth of Tom’s Book, it was a long and difficult birth and I rejoice that you and Br.Pat could join Jeannette in her generous hospitality. Thank you today, for giving me inspiration, hope and a renewed sense of connection with Gethsemeni when my well had become dry.

    Amen to Dr. Dapo for speaking for me against all killing and abhorence against jublilation at the killing of Osama bin Laden,

    blessings and peace Paul,
    Sheila

  • Darren Reale

    Brother Paul, your poems are an inspiration for contemplatives, and those seeking “don’t know what” for the rest of their lives. I greatly enjoyed your poem on “My Novices – Late 1950″ . It put for me into perspective just what is at the heart of those your order is seeking – silent, looking for ‘don’t know what’, seaching for it until their bodies wear out.

    May eternity take time to read your poetry!