to whom would love appear?

It has been a very rainy past two days here in Nashville.  Its grey nature has seemed the perfect environment to read and in the morning hours as I drink coffee, the solemn skies have bent me toward prayer.  This has been a rather challenging season for many of our nearest.  Sickness, loss, despair, etc. have overwhelmed them, and therefore us as well.  Though in such times of darkness we must also be disciplined to notice the moments that teach us how to be alive.  Whether it is the very literal birth of my niece early Saturday morning or the oftentimes overlooked family of birds that still sing and gather and survive, it is mandatory for us to remember light when all seems dark.

Some of that light for me is poetry.  I am by no means well read; in fact, I stubbornly stay with the poets I’ve grown to know.  Wendell Berry is far too prolific for me to even know at the age of 29, but I do already love him.  Berry is a firm disbeliever in technology, and so I hesitate to so deliberately plaster his work all over my blog, but his words reflect a firm belief in moments that teach us how to be alive.  And since the following poem does such for me (in fact, it was recited on our wedding day all because a sweet friend [Lauren] had the eyes to see its truth) I can only hope that he would be okay with me offering it to you. This is found in his Given collection of poems, number X in Part IV, “Sabbaths 1998.”

Tanya.  Now that I am getting old,
I feel I must hurry against time to tell you

(as long ago I started out to do) everything,

though I know that really there can be no end
to all there is for me to say to you even of this,

our temporary life.  Sometimes it seems to me

that I am divided from you by a shadow
of incomprehension, mine or yours, or mine and yours;

or that I am caught in the misery of selfhood

forever. And I think that this must be
the lot (may God help us) of all mortals who love

each other: to know by truth that they do so,

but also by error.  Often now I am reminded
that the time may come (for this is our pledge)

when you will stand by me and know

that I, though “living” still, have gone beyond
all remembering, as my father went in time

before me; or that I have gone, like my mother,

into a time of pain, drugs, and still sleep.
But I know now that in that great distance

on the edge or beyond the edge of this world

I will be growing alight with being.  And (listen!)
I will be longing to come back.  This

came to me in a dream, near morning,

after I had labored through the night under
this weight of earthly love.  On time’s edge, wakened,

shaken, light and free, I will be longing

to return, to seek you through the world,
to find you (recognizing you by your beauty),

to marry you, to make a place to live,

to have children and grandchildren.  The light
of that place beyond time will show me the world

as perhaps Christ saw it before His birth

in the stable at Bethlehem.  I will see that it is
imperfect.  It will be imperfect. (To whom would love

appear but to those in most desperate need?) Yes,

we would err again.  Yes, we would suffer
again. Yes, provided you would have it
so, I would do it all again.


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