Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Wendell Berry

I decided I will start writing a brief snippet about the poems I post every Sunday. (For any newcomers, every Sunday I post a favorite poem or set of lyrics as well as a poem of my own.)

Today is the second poem I've done from Wendell Berry, who has been one of the biggest influences on my life and my theology over the past year. As a farmer in Kentucky he writes fiction, essays, and poetry, all of which are outstanding. He has a tendency to write things that actually dismantle me physically.

This is one of the most powerful poems I have ever read. The first line of the second-to-last stanza felt like a punch to the gut ... in a positive way. What a charge, what a blessing, what a claim. In a world of escalating and seemingly endless religious violence, I hope it blesses you as well.

- - - - - - -

Now you know the worst

By Wendell Berry

To my granddaughters who visited the Holocaust Museum on the day of the burial of Yitzhak Rabin

Now you know the worst
we humans have to know
about ourselves, and I am sorry,

for I know that you will be afraid.
To those of our bodies given
without pity to be burned, I know

there is no answer
but loving one another,
even our enemies, and this is hard.

But remember:
when a man of war becomes a man of peace,
he gives a light, divine

though it is also human.
When a man of peace is killed
by a man of war, he gives a light.

You do not have to walk in darkness.
If you will have the courage for love,
you may walk in light. It will be

the light of those who have suffered
for peace. It will be
your light.

- - - - - - -

Sunny Fascism

We breathe as enemies of all,
of life lived whole, of nature round,
of hospitality. Descent
is pettiness, and listening –
if luck prevails – is marked up, down
to wholesale. Retail, though, demands
obedience to forces bent
exactly thus, for comfort’s sake,
success’s sake, for Market’s sake.

Compassion we reserve in times
of bust, for whom does Market have
in time of need? Without end, home,
or genealogy, alone
and destitute, a beggar with
a bottomless banking account,
and hungry from devouring
democracy, still hungry, mind
not manners, decency, for he
cannot be blamed. In innocence
conceived, our sunny fascism
walks, crawls, rampages here and there,
drawn inescapably by scent
to size, to stamping out the scaled,
the local, human, sane: the earth.

We smile and drink and watch and drift
away, in currents self-made, praised,
and coddled. Babel names the place,
is baby’s babble, scatters wide
the net, destruction leaves behind,
and saunters off to new conquest.

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