Beyond Knowing

by Scott Cairns

—η ειρήνη του θεού η υπερέχουσα πάντα νουν


The peace I hope to know is that strange peace
           surpassing knowledge, that deep peace
one finds most often in the brief descent
            that drops the pilgrim to his knees.

Abandoned at the bottom of the well
            the dear belovéd son might still
uplift his eyes to witness through his tears
            the calm obtaining mid the stars;

in the sea beast’s hollow gut, the duly
            chastened prophet might yet extend
his arms accepting the embrace that serves
            to prove a new serenity;

thrown by burning men into the furnace
            the three astonished youths might stand,
refreshed, wrapped in cool vapor, made
            quiet by the presence of another.

And here, amid the daily tumult, we
            might still descend into what calm
lies waiting in the bower of the heart,
            a stillness, ever beckoning.




Scott Cairns is Curators’ Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Missouri and directs the low-residency MFA program at Seattle Pacific University. His most recent collections are Idiot Psalms (2014) and Slow Pilgrim (2015). His spiritual memoir, Short Trip to the Edge, was reprinted in 2016.