03 September 2006

I love the writing of Wendell Berry ... a farmer, a poet and an essayist living in Henry County, Kentucky.

Berry writes often of farming [which I know nothing about], but I've found that when I swap out the word farmer with the word pastor and when I swap out Berry's imagery of fields or crops, replacing them instead with the imagery of a local church or flock, his words seldom fail to give me lasting images of what I've been called to do as a pastor-teacher ... images that take me deeper into what it means to be a preacher-man. Here are three of Wendell's poems. The final one is a "farmer poem" ... but the first two aren't.

A Warning to My Readers
from A Part | 1980

Do not think me gentle
because I speak in praise
of gentleness, or elegant
because I honor the grace
that keeps this world. I am
a man crude as any,
gross of speech, intolerant,
stubborn, angry, full
of fits and furies. That I
may have spoken well
at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is.

from The Country of Marriage | 1973

Did I believe I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see that what I thought
was the light is part of the dark.

The Farmer, Speaking of Monuments
from Farming: A Handbook | 1970

Always, on their generation's breaking wave,
men think to be immortal in the world,
as though to leap from water and stand
in air were simple for a man. But the farmer
knows no work or act of his can keep him
here. He remains in what he serves
by in it, becoming what he never was.
He will not be immortal in words.
All his sentences serve an art of the commonplace,
to open the body of a woman or a field
to take him in. His words all turn
to leaves, answering the sun with mute
quick reflections. Leaving their seed, his hands
have had a million graves, from which wonders
rose, bearing him no likeness. At summer's
height he is surrounded by green, his
doing, standing for him, awake and orderly.
In autumn, all his monuments fall.

Godspeed to each of you tonight.



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