Birds of a Feather

Poetry Corner: Reverdure March 21, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — kcfeather @ 10:29 pm

Spring arrived yesterday, and it even felt like it – the sun was shining, crocuses were slowly opening up as we took an evening stroll (while it was still light, at 6:30!) Then today, we woke up to snow flurries.  Go figure.

My dad sent us a care package recently that contained a few newspaper clippings, a few books, and a Wheaties box.  Thanks, dad!  One of the books was a collection of poems by Wendell Berry – Clearing.

The final poem of the book is beautiful, and so appropriate for the season. I was going to say that 8. was my favorite section, then I thought no, 12. or maybe 14. But after several re-readings I can’t choose – so I guess you’ll just have to bear through the long poem (it’s worth it!)


Wendell Berry

You never know
what you are going to learn.

The wintering mind turns
inward, like the earth
wintering. Beneath frost
it keeps future and past
alive. In spring it rises
from its deeps, folds out
again to light. Mind
and leaf unflex in shine.

How to get in
and out of your mind?
The way in prepares
the way out.

The groundhog, who turned
his tail to the cold, now
sticks out his face.

In the first warm morning
the black calf walks down
to the river, the light irised
in his hair. Over his back
leap the shadows of willows
leafing. The good sun
makes him go easy.

The phoebes have come back.

The drums of the woodpeckers
ask and answer.

The blue of the bluebird
is in the leafless apple tree,
new breath.

The redbird sings
O let it come, O

let it, let it.

An old grandmother
a little surprised
to be waking up again,
the ground slowly remembers
the shapes of grassblades,
stems, leaves, birds,
cattle, people, songs.

The slope whose scars I mended
turns green now.
Healing becomes health.
Reverdure is my calling.

One thing work gives
is the joy of not working,
a minute here or there
when I stand and only breathe,
receiving the good of the air.
It comes back. Good work done
comes back into the mind,
a free breath drawn.

Though I came here
by history’s ruin, reverdure
is my calling:
to make these scars grow grass.
I survive this fate and labor
by fascination.

I want to fence the thicket-ridden field
unused all my life, and turn in the calves
to browse the vines and leaves in May.
They will begin to open it, eating
the low growth, letting vision find its way
in among the close-standing trunks.

And then in the winters, as I need,
I will thin the trees, leaving the walnuts,
poplars, ashes, oaks, burning
what I cut to heat the house. Springs,
on the frozen mornings of early March,
I will sow the opened land. Slowly
good pasture will widen over the slope
in the shade of scattered tall trees,
change doing the ground no harm.

And so, in the first warmth of the year,
I went up with saw and axe
to cut a way in. I made a road, I made
a thought-way under the trees, up
the slope, and that was ancient work.
In rhyme of flesh with flesh, time
with time, act with act, I made my way
into the woods, leaving an order
that was mine, a way opening behind me
by which I came out again.

Above that thicket growth
the hillside steepens,
the trees are old. The farm
reaches one of its limits
there, and finds its example.
No leaf falls there that is lost;
all that falls rises, opens,
sings; what was, is.

And this steep woods will be
left standing, a part
of the farm not farmed,
its sacred grove, where we
will have nothing to do.
The trees live in eternity
and they live now. Their roots
are in life and death.
They have the earthly health
whose signature is song.

And there are ways
the deer walk in darkness
that are clear.
It is not by will
I know this,
but by willingness,
by being here.

It is time again I made an end to words
for a while–for this time,
or for all time. Any end may last.
I love this warm light room, where words
have kept me through the cold days.
But now song surrounds it, the fields
around it are green, and I must turn away
from books, put past and future behind,
to come into the presence of this time.


One Response to “Poetry Corner: Reverdure”

  1. David Andersen Says:

    So glad to hear that you enjoyed the book.


    David V. Andersen Holman Cahill Garrett Ives Oliver & Andersen, PLLC 5507-35th Avenue NE Seattle, WA 98105 206-547-1400 206-547-1276 (fax)

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