The Movement of the Soul

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“All the passions can be reduced to four: joy, hope, fear, and grief.
These four are so closely connected that, when one is controlled,
the others all obey. Consequently they can be reduced to one: joy.
And desire is the movement of the soul seeking joy.”
Thomas Merton, The Ascent to Truth

Fear
is knowing
that the dark cloud
bearing down
on thrashing trees,
sending calling birds
to awkwardly flee,
holds both
life
and death,
but not knowing
which it will be.

Fear
can lead to grief
when tumors increase.
Blood grows
thick
until, together
at last, we stand
coffin-side
and wonder
why.

This is the line that splits heaven from hell.

We comb his hair
and shave his face,
carefully fold a rosary
into his cold hands,
and wonder that
his chest is
so still.

But his eyes are safely
sealed against the
terror of the grave,
so we lay him to rest
and slowly go
our separate ways

Remember
those cold March days
when we stood, our
backs to the rising sun?

Too bright
to see, the sun
strokes us
with a lover’s warmth,
and rekindles in us
life’s desire.

Thus will it always be.

Death can never win
though his illusion is strong.
The mortal body succumbs
but the soul ascends,
like birds, joyfully rising
to the morning sun.

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3 thoughts on “The Movement of the Soul

  1. Your Thomas Merton quotes are always wonderful Steven. This is a powerful poem on the theme of emotions related to early death. I guess I am familiar with this scene, at least in a general way. Grief is difficult and never seems to totally disappear, but we learn to live with it.
    But his eyes are safely
    sealed against the
    terror of the grave,
    so we lay him to rest
    and slowly go
    our separate ways
    This stanza is actually comforting.
    May the last stanza truly be true.
    Thanks so much for posting this, Tom.

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