In a time…

In a time that breaks
in cutting pieces all around,
when men, voiceless
against thing-ridden men,
set themselves on fire, it seems
too difficult and rare
to think of the life of a man
grown whole in the world,
at peace and in place.
But having thought of it
I am beyond the time
I might have sold my hands
or sold my voice and mind
to the arguments of power
that go blind against
what they would destroy.

Wendell Berry
Untitled

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13 comments on “In a time…

  1. shoreacres says:

    I’ve not come across this one. Thanks.

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    • Bill says:

      It’s in the Collected Poems as a sort of preface.

      This bit seems relevant to your poem and our exchange yesterday:

      I am beyond the time
      I might have sold my hands
      or sold my voice and mind
      to the arguments of power
      that go blind against
      what they would destroy

      Like

  2. Bill, sorry I never usually get much out of poetry. The best I can do with poetry is what they have labeled cowboy poetry. It smacks of poetry but is more story telling about country and farm life. R. P. Smith from Broken Bow Nebraska is probably my favorite. In order to really enjoy cowboy poets, one has to have a good understanding of country life. Since two thirds of Nebraska’s population lives in city or urban areas, the cowboy poet does not have a real big following and usually sprouts up from someone that either farms or has a ranch and does cowboy poetry as a hobby and not a profession. I really doubt if any will become famous world over like Wendell Berry or other poets throughout the history of literature.

    Have a great poetic day.

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    • Bill says:

      I’m surprised that 2/3 of Nebraskans are urban. I would have guessed it was the other way around. The countryside continues to get drained, as the cities swell.

      Wendell Berry is a farmer. He still uses horses rather than a tractor. Maybe that makes him a Kentucky version of a cowboy poet. His poetry has spoken very powerfully in my life.

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      • bobraxton says:

        tale of two grandfathers: one (born 1902) raised tobacco and had a tall John Deere which when I was nine years old was the epitome of “cool.” the (paternal line) other (born 1887) never bought and used a mechanical tractor, although I hear olden tales of threshing grain; and later when he “raised cattle” (beef) when he needed land plowed to seed the next section of pastures, he just hired a tractor and driver for the specific job. Myself, I plow with a Prius and a bicycle (my other car). and now, on the other front … Virginia Theological Seminary – each day the Dean’s Commentary: today’s: “delighted to have Dr. Norman Wirzba speak on Food, Ecology and Farmworker Justice at the Forum. I recommend strongly …” about remembering farm workers (California unions). migrants. My father was a wandering Aramean – in the Bible.

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  3. Eumaeus says:

    we are not voiceless, bill. and we know that power is an illusion. but, as for me anyway, i’ve not “grown whole in the world, at peace and in place.” i hope this for you. and i hope it mightily for my children. And even as i’m dealing out all this hope, i keep a sliver for myself.

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t claim to have the life of a man grown whole in the world, at peace and in place either. But I do aspire to that. I hope it for all of us. And I can at least think of such a life. And having thought of it, am I now beyond the time my hands, voice and mind are for sale to the arguments of power? That is what I struggle with sometimes.

      May we all at least have the lives of people attempting to grow whole in the world.

      peace

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      • bobraxton says:

        voice and “free” speech: Chief justice and the majority have ruled that money is speech — therefore those in poverty, lacking money, are denied their voice (speech), the equivalent of being denied money. Since the Constitution guarantees “free” speech and money is speech, therefore money is also “free” and giving that free money to those who are currently poor returns to them their rightful speech, which the Constitution guarantees! Power to the money – uh – I mean Speech.

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  4. One does weary of being David in all the fights. It just goes on and on, and has gone on and on from way back. And David keeps getting smaller. We need a big giant David and we’re not going to get it. What we get and will get is Rush and Trump and warming oceans. That’s our high tea anymore. But i will not be a “cutting piece.” I will grow beets and tend 20 chickens, giant-like. And be at “peace.” People at peace are the new giants. Bill peace to you, and Eumaeus on the mend, peace to you too. may joy and lightness follow all davids always

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    • Bill says:

      And to you too my friend.

      I think of all the things our culture conditions us to envy, seek and acquire. Peace is not one of them. Imagine what our society would look like if there was a sudden flood of contentment. Something is seriously wrong with a culture that cannot exist at peace.

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  5. Never voiceless… Curt

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  6. beeholdn says:

    May we not be voiceless . . . but there are always those who are. And then there are all the non-human creatures, whose ‘voices’ we so easily miss; perhaps we all need to learn to listen more acutely. Sometimes silence is speaking loudly indeed.
    Thanks for the poem, Bill.

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    • Bill says:

      Yes, there are creatures who are voiceless in the sense of not having a voice in the place where the thing-ridden men do their scheming. Even poets who raise cries of protest can be voiceless in those halls.

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