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
heard some talk about
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
about everything what-not.

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

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

All of these I loved, but
seems the part I loved the best
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