Musing, poetry

” ‘Tis a Fearful Thing”

Morgan: I hope you like the new header! I felt as if we needed a change. I’m not totally into it-I wish I had photoshop!-but it’ll do, I think. ANYWAYS. Here is a poem I heard quoted in a This American Life Episode. It’s called ” ‘Tis a Fearful Thing.”

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.

–Yehuda Halevi

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Long Island Sound, the other night. 

SEE YOU SOON! Much loov, Droo

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Musing, poetry, Thoughts, Travels

The curious incident of the deer in the nighttime

Morgan,

Tomorrow–or rather, today–I am leaving for Greece. I’m excited, if only because it’s a new place that I can’t fathom in the slightest. I haven’t even googled Syros, the island we’re staying at, because I like that I have no image of it in my mind… Sometimes, I think travel might have been more thrilling before planes and the onset of so much technology. Sure, it took forever to get to a place. I think two days is a long time to travel to Greece, but it’s nothing compared to months on a boat, eh? Still, all that anticipation, all that mystery… must have been true adventure.

For the most part, I spent today gathering my things together. Nothing too exciting; the Fourth of July passed somewhat unnoticed in my world this year. I felt a little sad about that, but it was nice talking to you on the phone, and knowing you too were enjoying a quiet evening in your room… Sometimes, perhaps, we need that uneventfulness. I felt I did, at least.

-4Yeah, that’s right, I’m bringing my uke

Not that my day was entirely uneventful, though. You know, as I mentioned, the coffee stain and the deer (the latter being the more unnerving experience, of course).

I’d driven downtown around 8 pm for a run, because its around that time that the air cools and the humidity eases. It was very calm; not many people were about, but there were folks eating dinner outside of restaurants, and here and there I’d see another person strolling on the sidewalk. As it got darker, the fireflies came out, and driving back up Maher, it seemed the whole street was a-glow with these flashes of yellow, and everything was still and empty except for those sporadic flashes. That feeling of stillness clung to me as I drove home, slowly, a Shins album playing–so when that doe sprang from the woods, its head smashing against the front, right side of my car, I almost thought I imagined it. The only thing that felt real was the sound, this eerie thump. I think I saw its tan head snap, an antler crack and fling…but it happened so quickly, I likely did imagine that part. And then my car kept going. My headlights moved on, illuminating the gray asphalt and the evergreen trees in front of me, and that was that. I was alone; there was no one else on the road; no one had seen it happen. When I pulled into my driveway, I inspected the front of my car. Some plastic pieces around the front right tire and light were missing, but that was it–that was the only evidence that it had happened, besides the deer of course, which, in all likelihood, I’d killed. I thought about stopping after I hit it to see if it was indeed dead, but I thought I better not, because it was dark and no one was around and if my car failed to start again for some reason, I’d be completely stranded. So I kept going. But that doe probably didn’t die easily, with a blow to the head like that. It probably stumbled, fell to the side of the road, head smashed, suffered.

It’s the most rattling and peculiar feeling, the feeling of taking another creature’s life. This feeling was worse because I had taken its–the doe’s–life for nothing. I killed chickens last summer, but their deaths had a clear purpose, worth, dignity–and this was so utterly the opposite. That said, to be fair to myself, I couldn’t have avoided her with any driving finesse. She didn’t actually jump in front of me. If she had, I could have braked; instead, she met directly with the side of my car as she leaped from the trees, making it impossible for me to change my course… And yet, it was still my fault entirely, because I was doing the unnatural thing. Driving my car. She was bounding forth, doing what she was supposed to do, what deers do, you know? I was the one not playing my the rules.

And all of it made me think of this poem called “Traveling Through the Dark,” by William Stafford.

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.
By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.
My fingers touching her side brought me the reason—
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.
The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.
I thought hard for us all—my only swerving—,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.
Pretty, huh? Pretty and sad. Every time I read it I wonder about those last two lines. The thinking hard for us all, the swerving. It’s still a mystery to me. But in any case, I like the poem, if only because I can see it so clearly, the engine purring and the red exhaust and that hesitation.
And with that, sleep! If I can figure out the correct number of stamps, I’ll  send you a postcard from Greece.
Much love,
Drew
P.S. Thoughts? I think I’m in love with decoupage. And postcards. And journals. And this nifty app on my phone which lets me add captions. And your video (so beautiful). And YOU!
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P.S.S. I’m excited for you to read Norwegian Wood. Tell me how you like it; I hope you find it as stunning as I did. I’m reading Donna Tartt’s The Secret History now–also brilliant, also a college-age narrator. It’s different, I figure, reading a book in which the narrator is in roughly the same position/station in life as you currently are…its unique to you (like being a freshman in high school and reading A Catcher in the Rye, you know?)
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nature, poetry, quotes

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

–Wendell Berry

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What a BEAST Wendell Berry is! His poetry is like hot tea on a wintry afternoon. I can only hope some day to have a wikipedia entry that begins as awesomely as his does:

“Wendell Berry (born August 5, 1934) is an American man of letters, academic, cultural and economic critic, and farmer. He is a prolific author of novels, shorts stories, poems and essays.” 

Man of letters? academic? critic? farmer and prolific author? Is there anything this man can’t do? 

Crusader for the family farm, defender of nature, skeptic of technology–in an article for the National Endowment for the Humanities, David Skinner called him “the sum of his beliefs.” Such a simple phrase and yet, how many of us actually are the sum of our beliefs? It is so much more difficult to practice than preach, and more often than not I’m just a head case of hypocrisy. But thank god that, while the rest of us are floundering/striving/questioning, there are folks like Wendell Berry sticking to their guns, guiding the way, and spreading goodness in the worlds, or as he puts it–

“In the dark of the moon, in the flying snow, in the dead of winter, war spreading, families dying, the world in danger, I walk the rocky hillside, sowing clover.” 

You can read more about Berry/his poetry here.

–Drew

The Peace of Wild Things

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Minnesota, Musing, poetry, Thoughts

Genius poetry: Wendell Berry’s “Manifesto”

Fall is here and I have been craving poetry.

My roommate Sarah says there is a word for the feeling you get–that swell of emotions you experience–when you are listening to a particular song. There should be an equivalent word for reading poetry, I think. I am not sure how I would describe it–awe? joy? wonder? But it’s when you arrive at the core of a poem, the centerboard on which the rest of the words rest, and it strikes you in the heart, so hard it’s almost unbearable. For a moment I always think I might cry; it’s just so, so lovely.

Morgan, the poem below does that for me. I hope it does for you too.

“Manifesto: The Mad  Farmer Liberation Front”

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 field.

Lie down in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is highest 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.

Practice Resurrection.

 

–Wendell Berry

Source: http://www.herbcraft.org/berry.html

 

Love, Drew

P.S. I will send you the dispatch photos soon! I PROMISE!

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Maine, poetry, the farm

“Touch me” by Stanley Kunitz

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that’s late,
it is my song that’s flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
and it’s done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Peace, Drew

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Maine, poetry, the farm

Weeding words: occupying your mind for hours

WEEDING. We do it. A lot.

Afternoons on the farm are often spent with hands and knees in dirt, pulling up flowering galinsoga, chickweed, purslane. We weed for hours and hours, and it is repetitive, hard and hot. By the end of the day I have a “weeding stripe”–a small band of sunburned skin across the lower back where my shirt has ridden up from bending over. And yet, I don’t dislike weeding nearly as much as I should. There’s something peculiarly…pleasing about it. The monotony. My mind drifts. I think about everything and nothing simultaneously. We talk; we are quiet. And when I get terribly, terribly bored (which I inevitably do) I turn to poetry.

A bit ago I read a NYT article titled “Got Poetry?” by Jim Holt, in which he discusses the merits of memorizing poetry. Most of us think of memorizing poetry as an archaic, useless task–we feel we can just look up a poem online or in a book. But Holt recites poetry throughout the day, when he is busy or bored, while running or doing laundry. It is his internal library, a way to occupy his mind–and so it occurred to me that I too could recite poetry to occupy my mind, during the sweaty, tedious hours of weeding.

Because I’d come to memorize only three poems during my time in high school–Hamlet’s “To Be Or Not To Be” speech, Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring and Fall,” and Ted Hoosers “Grasshoppers”–I quickly ran out of material. I’ve thus taken to writing poems on small pieces of paper and slipping them in the band of my shorts or sport bra, to peek out intermittently while working and begin to commit to memory. So far I’ve learned Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays,” and am currently in the process of memorizing Matthew Dickman’s “Slow Dance”–a smooth, beautiful poem, you can read here.

I’m on chores this weekend with my farmmate Cassie, so I’m in need of a nap. Over and out,

Drew

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