Sabbaths 1998, VI

by Wendell Berry


Original Language English

By expenditure of hope,
Intelligence, and work,
You think you have it fixed.
It is unfixed by rule.
Within the darkness, all
Is being changed, and you
Also will be changed.

Now I recall to mind
A costly year: Jane Kenyon,
Bill Lippert, Philip Sherrard,
All in the same spring dead,
So much companionship
Gone as the river goes.

And my good workhorse Nick
Dead, who called out to me
In his conclusive pain
To ask my help. I had
No help to give. And flood
Covered the cropland twice.
By summer's end there are
No more perfect leaves.

But won't you be ashamed
To count the passing year
At its mere cost, your debt
Inevitably paid?
For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.

The gift is balanced by
Its total loss, and yet,
And yet the light breaks in,
Heaven seizing its moments
That are at once its own
And yours. The day ends
And is unending where
The summer tanager,
Warbler, and vireo
Sing as they move among
Illuminated leaves.

-- from Given: Poems, by Wendell Berry

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Sabbaths 1998, VI