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The Second Story Mountain


Merton wrote

The Seven Storey Mountain

About his journey to faith

And affiliation

David Brooks has written

The Second Mountain

About the search for a moral

Life that also

Has in it

Brooks’s journey into faith


There are many such stories

(John Henry Newman, Anne Lamott

Karen Armstrong—I give these folk

in order of reading them),

And high places

Are often an association


Once we climb, once we achieve

The phenomenal

The numinous,

We end up

On a mountain top

There is, in fact, the mountain-top


A trope of faith


On my way back recently,

I skirted a tunnel torn up for construction

And drove over two mountains

As an unmarked detour,

Taking roads who edges were too near,

Too sharp, too narrow

I was scared


And wondered among things while driving

How folk could live on either side,

Having these as ways

To take a normal day


I don’t like heights

I don’t like driving off the road, either

It’s all done now, and if I’m smart

I’ll never take that way again

There was a mountaintop, I guess

There were two such tops

I only noted a change in incline

Down from up

There was not a park or anything


A pullover,

A bench with an inscription in huge letters

Come and have your mountaintop here

Rather the only words I got

Were my own

That said, don’t look down so much


I’ll live in the valleys,

I suppose,

And have my faith life there

Or at the oceanside from time to time

It’s not stormy weather

That I mind

Though someday it should take

Me home


I’m sorry, this is more a story

Than a poem much cleverer,

Not much more

Than talking

In the room

Over coffee or some such,

Should we be meeting

At a table

Or in comfy chairs

Or with both


I have my life of faith, such as it

Might be

I hope, I even pray, that

You have yours

In a healthy sect or tradition

That suits you and

Creator and



Fits you like a story to

Which you return

Time and again


C L Couch



The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life by David Brooks

Route 641


Photo by Fabrizio Lunardi on Unsplash