Given Poems
Wendell Berry

To Tanya On My Sixtieth Birthday

What wonder have you done to me?
In binding love you set me free.
These sixty years the wonder prove:
I bring you aged a young man”s love.

How To Be A Poet
(to remind myself)

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill – more of each
than you have – inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditional air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensional life;
stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.

Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem hat does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

What is one to make of a life given
to putting things into words,
saying them, writing them down?
Is there a world beyond words?
There is. But don”t start, don”t
go on about the tree unqualified,
standing in light that shines
to time”s end beyond the summoning
name. Don”t praise the speechless
starlight, the unspeakable dawn.
Just stop.

Well, we can stop
for a while, if we try hard enough,
if we are lucky. We can sit still,
keep silent, let the phoebe, the sycamore,
the river, the stone call themselves
by whatever they call themselves, their own
sounds, their own silence, and thus
may know for a moment the nearness
of the world, its vastness,
its vast variousness, far and near,
which only silence knows. And then
we must call all things by name
out of the silence again to be with us,
or die of namelessness.

Some Further Words

…Let me tell you something, boy.
An intellectual whore is still a whore.

Sabbaths 1998, VI

…For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a free gift.

Sabbaths 2003, VIII

All that patriotism requires, and all that it can be,
is eagerness to maintain intact and incorrupt
the founding principles of the nation, and to preserve
undiminished the land and the people. If national conduct
forsakes these aims, it is one”s patriotic duty
to say so and to oppose. What else have we to live for?

Sabbaths 2004, VI

…You can imagine the place
as it was, and as it is.
The moment of transformation,
the presence of creation,
itself is beyond reach.

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