Tony at A Way With Words asked if I like Wendell Berry. I do and rank him among my favourite poets. When I hear or read his name, I think of this poem.
What does it mean to be radical? The word radical comes from Old English and means going to one’s origins or roots. When I read this poem, it reminds me of the possibilities in a radical life. I can seek out my roots, the wisdom of those who came before me, and lived on the land. I love the second stanza and it just carries on from there for the rest of the poem.
Do something that does not compute, make many tracks, and sometimes confuse the world of where I go. Go against the grain.
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Wow. I like Wendell Berry but haven’t read this one before. Thanks for sharing!
You are welcome. He has such a huge body of poetry it is hard to know and read them all.
This is more than wonderful.
It a great poem.
He’s brilliant. Wonderful ethic.
“Practice resurrection.” … such a wonderful thing to write.
He wrote an essay about not writing an anti-Vietnam protest poem, because he was opposed to war in general. Wendell Berry, like all great poets, offers us a banquet of words to mull over.
Indeed he does, Ivon. And you offer us an early day banquet with which to start the day. Thank you!
You are welcome Jamie.
There is truly something magnificent that I would quote in each line..which of course would make my comment just a repetition of the poem itself. I need to read more Wendell Berry of this I am sure – and “be joyful though you have considered all the facts”..Thank you Ivon
There is a lot of Wendell Berry to read. Like all the great poets he is leaving a huge library. You are welcome Mimi.
I’ll be thinking about radical all day now!
I think that was Wendell’s purpose.
This was an absolutely breath-taking read Ivon. You really know how to pick the best poetry. Thank you so much for this. I felt exhilarated reading it.
I am glad you enjoyed it Yaz.
I love this… it’s wonderful. Thank you!
You are welcome James.
Tremendous poem. Definitely one of my favorites.
Among Wendell Berry’s many great poems this is one of my favourites as well.
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Thank you for the kind words. They are appreciated.