He visited several monasteries and churches:
"... as for the churches around Cuba, I must say that I have never seen such churches or such things when I was in a church. There is a church here called La Soledad which has in it a miraculous image, and when I walked into the place I was picked up by my feet off the floor and seen not a ring of pure and endless light but rather a great ring of nothing which was absolutely real, indescribable and also a little frightening. It was clearer than if I had seen it which my eyes, but it was simply nothing, and there was no sensible note included in it anywhere, and anyway I was on the edge of it like on the edge of an abyss ... " - from a letter to Lax dated April 1940
This is probably the finest of Merton's early poems. Merton later made some changes to it, but I like it in its original form. He seems to be influenced by the beat of calypso music.
The white girls stir their heads like trees,
The black girls go
Reflected like flamingoes in the street.
The white girls sing as shrill as water,
The black girls speak
As loud as clay.
[The published version reads: The black girls talk/As quiet as day."]
The white girls open their arms like clouds,
The black girls close their eyes like wings;
Angels bow down like bells,
Angels look up like toys,
Because the heavenly stars
Stand in a ring,
And all the pieces of the mosaic, earth,
Get up and fly away like birds.
[drawings by Thomas Merton]