Keep away, son, these lakes are salt. These flowers
Eat insects. Here private lunatics
Yell and skip in a very dry country.
Or where some haywire monument
Some badfaced daddy of fear
Commands an unintelligent rite.
To dance on the unlucky mountain,
To dance they go, and shake the sin
Out of their feet and hands,
Frenzied until the sudden night
Falls very quiet, and magic sin
Creeps, secret, back again.
Badlands echo with omens of ruin:
Seven are very satisfied, regaining possession:
(Bring a little mescaline, you’ll get along!)
There’s something in your bones,
There’s someone dirty in your critical skin,
There’s a tradition in your cruel misdirected finger
Which you must obey, and scribble in the hot sand:
“Let everybody come and attend
Where lights and airs are fixed
To teach and entertain. O watch the sandy people
Hopping in the naked bull’s-eye,
Shake the wildness out of their limbs,
Try to make peace like John in skins
Elijah in the timid air
or Anthony in tombs:
Pluck the imaginary trigger, brothers.
Shoot the devil: he’ll be back again!”
America needs these fatal friends
Of God and country, to grovel in mystical ashes,
Pretty big prophets whose words don’t burn,
Fighting the strenuous imago all day long.
Only these lunatics, (O happy chance)
Only these are sent. Only this anaemic thunder
Grumbles on the salt flats, in rainless night:
O go home, brother, go home!
The devil’s back again,
And magic Hell is swallowing flies.
Thomas Merton, “Advice to a Young Prophet” from The Collected Poems of Thomas Merton.