Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sunday Sabbath Poetry: Wendell Berry for the Anniversay of 9/11

My intention was to post a Wendell Berry poem on the third anniversary of beginning this series, in the last week of August. As it happens, however, even though I've shared this particular poem before, these words are especially worth pondering today, on the tenth anniversary of 9/11.

What follows is the fifth in Berry's series of unnamed Sabbath poems written in 1995, found in A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997.

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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.


  1. I need to commit myself to reading all Berry's stuff. It keeps bowling me over. Thanks for this series, Brad, it has tangibly affected my walk.

  2. Glad to hear it! My experience is 100% the same.

    The ("extant") collections I've read, if you find it hard to put together the complete list:

    A Timbered Choir
    Collected Poems 1957-1982

    And, as we share both Franz Wright and Berry now, let me add one final "read all of their stuff" recommendation: Mary Karr. Just wonderful.