Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Songs That Are to Come

"Protest that endures is motivated by something far more humble than any prospect of human success---it endures because acquiescence would be detrimental to one's heart and spirit."

~ Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

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 field.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and 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

Painting: Winslow Homer, "5:30 a.m."

The photograph is mine: My back yard last summer.


  1. Maybe it's because I am a farm girl at heart. I just love Wendell Berry. So much great imagery here. Thanks!

  2. It makes me want to quit my job and devote myself to art. Okay, I already want to do that, but this poem almost pushed me over the edge. Thank you.

  3. Wendell Berry, the Kentucky voice that springs eternal from the fertile soil of our beautiful and beloved land.

  4. Betty, I'm glad we share a fondness for Wendell. You choose such wonderful poems for your Tuesday poetry day. They always grab me by the heart.

    Fluid Idleness, I can imagine no finer way to spend the rest of my life than devoted to art, in all its forms. Do join me. :)

    Cletis, I can no longer think of Wendell without thinking of you, down there in Kentucky, fighting the good fight.

  5. Berry is a fine poet and his subject matter conjures up such touching (to me) memories.

  6. You have gorgeous surroundings! I like the idea of being like a fox...alert, inquisitive, a little unpredictable, close to the earth, nose and ear to the ground. Playful.

  7. Wow, this is a great manifesto. "As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions of your mind, lose it." I spent a year at a job in that mode, more or less. Exhausting but worthwhile, given the issues we had. But there are so many more wonderful ideas here.... Thanks for posting it.

  8. Paul, Growing up near the earth really puts you in touch with Berry, doesn't it?

    Li, I have a red fox that hangs around here, from time to time. I love how the Universe mirrors my thoughts back to me.

    Nancy, "Exhausting, but worthwhile." Good for you. I like to hear of those who found a way around the system, even while being present to it. Thanks for your comment.

  9. TE, I am so glad you stopped by my blog and left a comment! Look at all the nifty things you have going on here! Heavens, we share common quotes, the Dickinson poem you posted about below is one of my learned-by-heart favorites, and ah, Mary Oliver & Wendell Berry!!

    Much to discover and engage in here.

  10. Howdy Neighbor! :) I couldn't get over all the things we share. I posted on Gary Snyder, too, a while back. Ain't we got fun?

  11. Wow, I love this poem. 'As soon as the generals and politicos can predict the motions of your mind...' I would include everyone who markets their wares...

  12. Paul C, I agree. We should all make ourselves so unpredictable, so counter to their onslaught of advertising, that they remain confounded and ultimately will have to ask, What do you want us to create for you? And then we will set the tone, with our higher expectations.

  13. Teresa, you are a very inspired blogger. Your posts often hit me just where I need to be hit, and your comments on my own posts always, always say what I need to hear. Thank you for coming into my life. If I had a private email for you, I would have sent a long response to that last one... my email is on my profile page, if you feel like it. Or do you have a Facebook page I've somehow missed?

  14. DJan, I'm very glad you came into my life as well. I'm still chuckling over your comment in your post that you come from a long line of worriers, "and here's two of them," with your picture of your mom and grandma. Something about it struck my funny bone. Anyhoo, my email is on my profile. Please feel free to use it anytime! I left Facebook this fall. Not certain yet if/when I'll be back. Thank you so much for your kind remarks.

  15. What a powerful poem, it's brilliant.I would love a backyard like your's; my soul is crying out for beauty, space, nature...

  16. So many pretty explicit words ~ I can totally imagine it all!

    xo Catherine

  17. Marilyn, Isn't that a good one, Marilyn?
    re: my yard - I am sooo looking forward to our summer here.

    Catherine, I imagine you are looking forward to summer, too, Cat? :)

  18. Teresa growing up near the land does make life seem more precious to me and Berry does a fine job touching what is real.

  19. Paul, Berry strikes a chord with so many now who are looking for what's real, what we were fortunate to start with.