The Lover’s Hermitage: A Poem for Karen

On August 7 Karen and I celebrated our 39th anniversary. Those of you familiar with my book The Mystery of Marriage will know that when I first met my wife-to-be, I was seriously considering entering a monastery.

Surprise, surprise! I got married instead, and now after four decades (counting the year of our engagement) I can say that I’ve been more of a true monk—a man dedicated to prayer—than I ever could have been in a monastery. Having been inspired by Thomas Merton, I even dreamed of being a hermit. Yet marriage has fulfilled my heart’s longing far better than any shack in the woods. Sound paradoxical? Here’s a poem I wrote for Karen, called “The Lover’s Hermitage,” to express something of the wonderful gift she has been to me.

Love, you are my hermitage,
my dwelling for ever.

Just as a happy bachelor
may aspire to be a hermit,
so as your husband do I dream
of being more married.

Your body is a path leading
through a golden wood;
your love is a clearing
in the center of the forest.

Here have I built my home,
here in you alone.
With you I know a solitude
deeper than my own.

One table, one rocking chair
by the hearth of you—
and in your face a window
brighter than the sky!

When you smile I’m warmed
like earth in the sun.
Your laugh is the brook
at my doorstep.

Your words are quieter
than my thoughts.
Gladly shall I spend my life
in the cool still hush of you.

Gentler are you than breath,
stranger than death.
Just to touch your hair
is more peaceful than sleep.

Surely all my wandering
finds its end in you.
In your brown eyes
may I safely die.

Love, you are my hermitage,
my dwelling for ever.

~from The Mystery of Marriage

Next Post: The Mystery of Marriage: An Interview, Part I

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