The Common Good
March 2009

Unknown Country

by Pamela Porter | March 2009

Five desert photographs taken by Thomas Merton.

Four cars or trucks were parked by the old dead tree
at Needle Rock … two other cars met us on the road …
that’s too many …

He searched for a more solitary place, a hermitage.

I dream every night of the west …

An interior landscape

All blue is precious … there is very much of it here.
A fortune in clear sky and the air …

and the utter poverty of God.

The monastery is thirteen miles by dirt road from the nearest highway.
In that distance, only one other house is passed—Skull Ranch …

Vast, moving clouds; the monastery diminuitive in the canyon.

… around the monastery, nothing. The whole canyon replete
with emptiness.

High cliff walls worn through, resisting the river’s work, then giving way.

Boulder broken by a tuft of grass growing toward the light.

A bleached skull skillfully hung against O’Keeffe’s adobe wall.

There is nothing to achieve but the original mind, movement of breath
through us, unobstructed, unresisted.

Everyone comes from unknown country.

Pamela Porter lives in Sidney, British Columbia. Her most recent collection of poetry is The Intelligence of Animals.

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