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Sabbaths 2001


He wakes in darkness.
All around are sounds of stones shifting, locks unlocking.
As if some one had lifted away a great weight, light falls on him.
He has been asleep or simply gone.
He has known a long suffering of himself, himself sharpen by the pain of his wound of separation he now no longer minds, for the pain is only himself now, grown small, become a little growing longing joy.
Something teaches him to rise, to stand and move out through the opening the light has made.
He stands on the green hilltop amid the cedars, the skewed stones, the earth all opened doors.
Half blind with light, he traces with a forefinger the moss-grown furrows of his name, hearing among the others one woman's cry.
She is crying and laughing, her voice a stream of silver he seems to see: "Oh William, honey, is it you? Oh!" II Surely it will be for this: the redbud pink, the wild plum white, yellow trout lilies in the morning light, the trees, the pastures turning green.
On the river, quiet at daybreak, the reflections of the trees, as in another world, lie across from shore to shore.
Yes, here is where they will come, the dead, when they rise from the grave.
III White dogwood flowers afloat in leafing woods untrouble my mind.
IV Ask the world to reveal its quietude— not the silence of machines when they are still, but the true quiet by which birdsongs, trees, bellows, snails, clouds, storms become what they are, and are nothing else.
V A mind that has confronted ruin for years Is half or more a ruined mind.
Nightmares Inhabit it, and daily evidence Of the clean country smeared for want of sense, Of freedom slack and dull among the free, Of faith subsumed in idiot luxury, And beauty beggared in the marketplace And clear-eyed wisdom bleary with dispraise.
VI Sit and be still until in the time of no rain you hear beneath the dry wind's commotion in the trees the sound of flowing water among the rocks, a stream unheard before, and you are where breathing is prayer.
VII The wind of the fall is here.
It is everywhere.
It moves every leaf of every tree.
It is the only motion of the river.
Green leaves grow weary of their color.
Now evening too is in the air.
The bright hawks of the day subside.
The owls waken.
Small creatures die because larger creatures are hungry.
How superior to this human confusion of greed and creed, blood and fire.
VIII The question before me, now that I am old, is not how to be dead, which I know from enough practice, but how to be alive, as these worn hills still tell, and some paintings of Paul Cezanne, and this mere singing wren, who thinks he's alive forever, this instant, and may be.

Poem by Wendell Berry
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