Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven's favor,
in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
so often laughing at funerals, that was because
I knew the dead were already slipping away,
preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
be resurrected by a piece of cake. 'Dance,' they told me,
and I stood still, and while they stood
quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
'Pray,' they said, and I laughed, covering myself
in the earth's brightnesses, and then stole off gray
into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
When they said, 'I know that my Redeemer liveth,'
I told them, 'He's dead,' And when they told me,
'God is dead,' I answered, 'He goes fishing every day
in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.'
When they asked me would I like to contribute
I said no, and when they had collected
more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
When they asked me to join them I wouldn't,
and then went off by myself and did more
than they would have asked. 'Well then,' they said
'go and organize the International Brotherhood
of Contraries,' and I said, 'Did you finish killing
everybody who was against peace?' So be it.
Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
I say I don't know. It is not the only or the easiest
way to come to the truth. It is one way.

--Wendell Berry

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Oh Sing We Now the Holy Weeds

Oh sing we now the Holy Weeds
That flourish in the ditch,
For they are for the meek in needs,
They are not for the rich.

You cannot buy them at the mall,
Nor at the superstore,
They are despised because they all
Grow freely for the poor.

The Dandelion shoots, for spring,
Before their flowers burst;
The Burdock root is best in June
When it is fat with juice;

When autumn comes, the Acorn's ripe,
the Walnut black is too;
Young Milkweed pods are sweet when boiled,
And Milkweed shoots when new.

The inner bark of Spruce and Birch
For extra Vitamin C --
But do not take too much of each,
Or you will kill the tree.

The Purslane, Sorrel, Lamb's Quarters,
and Nettles, too, are good;
The Hawthorn, Elder, Sumac, Rose --
Their berries wholesome food.

The holy weeds are plentiful
And beautiful to see --
For who can doubt God put them there,
So starved we'll never be.

-- Margaret Atwood (from The God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook in The Year of the Flood)

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Oh Let Me Not Be Proud

Oh let me not be proud, dear Lord,
Nor rank myself above
The other Primates, through whose genes
We grew into your Love.

A million million years, Your Days,
Your methods past discerning,
Yet through your blend of DNAs
Came passion, mind, and learning.

We cannot always trace Your path
Through Monkey and Gorilla
Yet all are sheltered underneath
Your Heavenly Umbrella

And if we vaunt and puff ourselves
With vanity and pride
Recall Australopithecus,
Our Animal inside.

So keep us far from worser traits,
Aggression, anger, greed;
Let us not scorn our lowly birth
Nor yet our Primate seed.

--Margaret Atwood (from The God's Gardeners Oral Hymnbook in The Year of the Flood)