Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Wendell Berry (One Year Anniversary Edition!)

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the very first post here on Resident Theology, and just a few days after that first entry was the inaugural "Sunday Sabbath Poetry" post, featuring its inspiration, Wendell Berry. It only seems fitting, then, to feature him again today, as I have every few months in the past year. Below is one of his angrier poems, but in truth less angry than sad, almost a national lament focused on a particular character and vocation whose monstrous task is the domesticated, standard mission of death by precision. If only such a lament could be read in pulpits across the country.

My own afterward is fitting for the occasion, a strange (but hopefully honest, being that I had forgotten about writing it) poem on poetry itself. Enjoy, and happy anniversary!

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Air

By Wendell Berry

This man, proud and young,
turns homeward in the dark
heaven, free of his burden
of death by fire, of life in fear
of death by fire, in the city
now burning far below.

This is a young man, proud;
he sways upon the tall stalk
of pride, alone, in control of the
explosion by which he lives, one
of the children we have taught
to be amused by horror.

This is a proud man, young
in the work of death. Ahead of him
wait those made rich by fire.
Behind him, another child
is burning; a divine man
is hanging from a tree.

- - - - - - -

On Poetry

I sometimes wonder if
these words of mine do not
rhyme by skill or relief,

if my art like a song
overdue for a chorus
cuts the second verse;

instead of filling out
the skyline, I stop halfway
up the Sears Tower.

These lines, like the thirsty
blood colored gold beneath
my stuttering hand, are

perpetual fount, my
stubborn filthy window
happy only to see

landscape on the other
side. The fix is worth it.
Put your eyeball slant to

the page's truth, and if
you hold back even a
hint of your soul, if you

do not snort these lines with
a patient violence worthy
of their authors -- spill

that gold on the page until
it congeals into
truth, reminding you of

the need, that something must
do this thing, that as an
animal of prayer you

owe it to yourself. Breathe.
Left to right. Imitate.
Be still all your upward

apologies: beauty
like a net thrown by a
thousand hands of history

has claimed by rights your life,
and all its tapestries,
all its tributaries,

all its many-colored
gossip and gore. Let go
this moonlit breath and fall

into the spoken words
of men whose love will sate,
will devour you entire.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, Happy Anniversary, Resident Theology! Your blog, Brad, has been one of my happier online discoveries this year. All the best to you!

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