A Poem of Thomas Merton for his Brother

This poem was written by Merton in memory of his brother who died in WW II.


Sweet brother, if I do not sleep

My eyes are flowers for your tomb;

And if I cannot eat my bread,

My fasts shall live like willows where you died.

If in the heat I find no water for my thirst,

My thirst shall turn to springs for you, poor traveller.


Where, in what desolate and smokey country,

Lies your poor body, lost and dead?

And in what landscape of disaster

Has your unhappy spirit lost it’s road?


Come, in my labor find a resting place

And in my sorrows lay your head,

Or rather take my life and blood

And buy yourself a better bed-

Or take my breath and take my death

And buy yourself a better rest.


When all the men of war are shot

And flags have fallen into dust,

Your cross and mine shall tell men still

Christ died on each, for both of us.


For in the wreckage of your April Christ lies slain,

And Christ weeps in the ruins of my spring.

The money of Whose tears shall fall

Into your weak and friendless hand,

And buy you back to your own land.

The silence of Whose tears shall fall

Like bells upon your alien tomb.

Hear them and come; they call you home.


Thomas Merton wrote this poem for his brother who died when his bomber crashed into the North Sea in 1943.  As I read it I cried for the fathers of two of my best friends who died in WW II, the brother of two of my friends who died in Viet Nam, and the Husband of a friend and the son of another who died in Iraq.  War sucks.  I do not pretend to know if war is ever justified or not, but even if fully justified, war still sucks.  I thought that this would a good poem to share as we think about involvement in another war in Syria.

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