Resident Poet and Photographer

Br. Paul is one of the monastery’s better-known monks. He entered the abbey in 1958 and was a novice under Thomas Merton. In addition to the usual monastic jobs, Br. Paul is a poet, photographer and published author. His recent book “In Praise of the Useless Life” earned first place in the 2019 Catholic Press Association Book Awards in the memoir category.

Exquisitely Small: A Mad Monk's Haikus Through the Seasons

In addition to his other poetry writing, Br. Paul is a prolific composer of haiku. Thanks to a friend, a large collection of Br. Paul’s haiku has been arranged into “Exquisitely Small,” a digital publication for free download. We hope you enjoy.

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Trove of Possibilities

Breathe in the day,
the day grows alive in you.

The glow in the east, the chill,
the silence, are here for you,

silence extending to
the outer reaches of space.

Reach into the trove of possibility,
rummage and sort.

Each possibility is precious,
whether it comes true or not,

for you are a child of possibility.

Earth leans toward the east by law;
by law the sky comes onward
in this your realm of possibility.

Hear how the first dove sounds—the distant geese.

Moonlit Reveries

The full blurry moon
won’t find rest in the sharp tings
of that barren tree.

Tall monk strides by with
stroke and fluff of fabric,
paid no heed to moon.

While moon is sinking
It ‘s hard to settle into
calm, inner repose.

Moon gets me concerned:
Are monks without coffins here
sinking and sinking?

No, they are farther
away than that—at
the core of all.

In the thickening clouds,
moon has lost its form then hides.
Now, soul, turn inward.

In what’s unseen sink,
In mystery intimate
be stayed at the core.

Ripening Afternoon

at the hermitage


Sun casts lance-like shades
Of tapered blades—busy ant
speeds its noiseless way.

My mind gathered now,
senses stilled, I felt I would
stay awhile quiet.

But slow, late afternoon
gathered a sigh, and breezes
stirred through branches.

At once unraveled,
senses picked up, fresh with joy,
day turns to evening.


Obedient to
ripening afternoon,
distant Vespers bell

softly filters through
forest leaves, spreads the fields with

with gentle grace of
time and space, where swaying weeds
enhanced by sunlight stand.

This moment knows not
haste nor cares should time stand
still and never pass.

But pass it will to
leave an imprint beyond time—
ever fresh, ever exquisite.

Seashell of Time

This moment, cast up on your shoreline,
is from the sea of time.
Hold it to your ear and listen.
The whole ocean is inside sounding.

Within each moment
tides of hours are surging.
Within each hour fathoms of years.

Do not discard this present moment.
It curls inward to resounding canyons.

Hold the precious conch shell awhile and listen.
It’s awash with centuries beneath centuries awash.


The news is they finally found out where our kind came from—astronomers, I mean—from a cluster of
planets surrounding a distant star. This explains the enigma of our alien nature; how we Trappists are
not much of this world, our minds and hearts elsewhere.

Trappist planets, they suggest, are habitable—or so the speculation goes—but our question as Trappists
is whether this planet is habitable. We’ve come to try it out here a while and one by one we depart
disappointed. What’s here hardly compares with Trappist planets. We keep here a code of silence
surrounding Trappists. Best it remains a mystique—a distant never-never land where tourists cannot
come. Commercial space flight will be the ruin of it, and then what heart will Trappists like us have for
our homeland? Best we stay put here and make the most of what we have. Make things a little more like
the old planet.

In Deer Park: Truth and Consequence

With mind strayed
you look up
and there it is, one deer,
and you don’t know where it came from.

Standing steady and tall,
a principle truth you’d never thought of,
alive in its time and place,
and its consequence—
a fawn, heads raised,
dropping and lifting,
flicking tails,
snatching grass,
quick and golden—
vital truths, free in the wild.

Slowly they recede
toward darkened forest.
Consequence skips to catch up–
bright tail raised as
an exclamation mark—
so happy its alive in being.

Your sight fades.
They merge beneath branch cave
and flip, flip you gestures
that darkness is the refuge of truth.

Slipped Off at Night

For Br. Norbert Myer

Infirmary monks
spent years attending to him.
At death they embraced.

He’d slipped away slick
as a serpent sloughing off
dead peeling of skin.

squeezing slickly through
narrow cleft, the slit of death,
pared down, bare to grow

rare new skin—tender
as light touch of two Brothers
after work well done
for one hidden life well lived.

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