Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Wendell Berry

This poem was Wendell Berry's first Sabbath poem of the new year of 1991. Berry is one of our most coherent and powerful voices against the unmitigated machinery of war, and this is one of his most powerful poems. My poem after it is a kind of extension of his poem, drawing and expanding on Berry's work. I should also give credit where credit is due: the last line, and the other inspiration for the poem, is taken from Stanley Hauerwas's "Call for the Abolition of War" at the 2007 Convocation and Pastor's School at Duke Divinity School.

[Update: I have taken down poems I am in the process of submitting for publication. I apologize for the confusion and/or inconvenience!]

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The year begins with war

By Wendell Berry

The year begins with war.
Our bombs fall day and night,
Hour after hour, by death
Abroad appeasing wrath,
Folly, and greed at home.
Upon our giddy tower
We'd oversway the world.
Our hate comes down to kill
Those whom we do not see,
For we have given up
Our sight to those in power
And to machines, and now
Are blind to all the world.
This is a nation where
No lovely thing can last.
We trample, gouge, and blast;
The people leave the land;
The land flows to the sea.
Fine men and women die,
The fine old houses fall,
The fine old trees come down:
Highway and shopping mall
Still guarantee the right
And liberty to be
A peaceful murderer,
A murderous worshipper,
A slender glutton, or
A healthy whore. Forgiving
No enemy, forgiven
By none, we live the death
Of liberty, become
What we have feared to be.

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