Tag Archives: Wendell Berry





                                                                                                    …my life
                                        a patient willing descent into the grass.

                                             – Wendell Berry (“The Wish To Be Generous”)

Hemmed in silver moonlight, scattered
clouds linger over hills, no wet reflection
of the porch light. She has come and gone

without waking me with thunder, pellets
on the roof, not a leaky drip from the eave,
leaving nothing to remember her passing

by—not even her musty petrichor perfume
in the damp dark air to soothe my senses—
gone without a thought of waking me.

From a distance in the daylight, islands
of purple filaree look like dirt in graying
green, rolling dusty plumes follow cows

into water, yet they don’t seem to worry
into another winter without rain. Too
familiar, I read the signs with each synapse

shortened by the hard and dry. Too long
in the same place, I can see the weather
and the world have changed around me—

changed me as I retreat and try to adapt
like summer weed seed over time:
impervious to thirst and political herbicides.






                                        and what’s the work?
                                                            To ease the pain of living.
                                        Everything else, drunken

                                                                      – Allen Ginsberg

I have no appetite for news, yet addicted
to reason less obvious
than the Emperor’s latest haberdashery.

Coffee conversation stops
to the quiet glide of a Cooper’s Hawk
beneath the roof overhead, limp legs

dangling, quail warm before breakfast.
She has chosen the four of us
to interrupt, to remind of naked grace

in a profane world—to ease the taloned
hold of the drunken dumbshow
before we hay the cows

and we feel blessed
for prolonged moments of wonder unwound
to remember who we are.









                                                            the world
                              lives in the death of speech
                              and sings there.

                                             ~ Wendell Berry (“The Silence”)

My time is here
within the details—
small tracks that whisper words

I’ve yet to say or spell,
a great expanse opening
new frontiers beyond

the clatter, the cacophony
of commerce, the pomposity
of puppets geared

to create more fear.
Talons latch and lock,
tumble carelessly

with confidence—young
eagles playing, practicing
pinwheels in the canyon

beyond the corrals.
There is no sound
from my open mouth

as they disappear
behind your hat, your horse,
Earl’s board fence

and our cows wanting
to get along.
No time to say

what will never be enough
or too much
before it’s over.





Vanity is absence.

                                       – Wendell Berry (“Praise”)



Within the unfolding
              Be here!
among waves of leaves
shed like rain
for a moment
of poetry—

somewhere other than
distant histories
and posed reflections.

              Be here!

to witness miracles
while the mundane dance
within the grace

of animated metaphors
in the half-light
of dusk and dawn.

              Be here!

on our knees
bringing life
with gentle breath
to dry twigs
upon dying coals—
to shadows melting
around our fire.






                             I am growing downward,
                             smaller, one among the grasses.

                                  – Wendell Berry (“Thirty More Years”)

I knew when I was young
and proud, I had found my place
on this ground—my limbs

could support me for as long
as they were sound—living
where the work was hard.

I was not afraid of time
and grinned at gravity,
rode the edges of ridges down

behind cattle, shaping me
to fit the landscape
eventually or die.

I scratch among the grasses now,
learn the language of birds
and flowers, the expression

of horses and families of cattle—
all the tattered glories of youth
bent closer to what counts.




                                       Now in the quiet I stand
                                       and look at her a long time, glad
                                       to have recovered what is lost
                                       in the exchange of something for money.

                                            – Wendell Berry (“The Sorrel Filly”)

Looming closer, a swirling darkness just beyond
the thought of summer’s water that is not
frozen deep in the Sierras to feed our rivers

and canyon leaks—of brittle fall and cattle
gathered at an empty trough. The creek dries back
and sinks in March, lifted to new canopies

of sycamores dressing. Skeletons of old oaks
stand out between greening survivors, some
wearing only clumps of yellow mistletoe

hanging like reasons, raisons—like raisins
clinging to a leafless vine. Each season
spins the same dry song, yet we find our place,

harmonize and sing along, lifted like precious
moisture to tender leaves, a basic ascension not
available in the big box stores, unrecorded

in the history of our presence. This may be
the new normal for old people—that daze
of amazement we have been working towards.





                                                                                                    Gail Steiger


Two months from Elko
busy branding calves,
begging for rain and grass,

we listen under an empty
overcast to “A Matter
of Believin’” as if Gail

were here with 100 years
of ranching lessons
in poetry and song.

South slopes all but done,
thin feed gray on clay
showing again,

it’s time to love
this short spring
wrapped in wildflowers

with our old friend
and glass of wine—
the whole show

mostly behind us now,
we indulge ourselves,
embrace the storms

of good fortune
we have worn well—
believing and trusting,

adapting like cattle
to these same hills
just harvesting grass.



February 15, 2015

February 15, 2015


                         the green growth the mind takes
                         from the pastures in March;

                              – Wendell Berry (“Goods”)

Like cattle filling bellies
becoming whole to bloom,
resting early in the shade of limbs
awaiting leaves, the pastures pulse
with goodness for as far as I can see.

How spring seemed so much longer
when I was a boy, the world wider
as the hills came alive, breathing
easily as apparitions danced
upon the green between rains.

And it becomes us to overwhelm
all else—renewed proof and hope
for mankind—pattern and possibility
yet on this earth that we absorb
like grass. And we feed upon it.




                        By the excellence of his work the workman is a neighbor.
                        By selling only what he would not despise to own
                        the salesman is a neighbor. By selling what is good
                        his character survives the market.

                              – Wendell Berry (“Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer”)

We wish success for all our neighbors, fat
calves and money enough to buy good bulls
looking for work on our side of the fence,
and ours on theirs, despite best intentions.

Today, old neighbors come to help brand calves
with respect—rope, stretch and vaccinate
rambunctious children to a slow waltz—
to share the bounty of our heritage

despite the drought, despite the cows
we had to sell to save the others
and ourselves. Character upon this ground,
we have survived weather and the market.




                        Let me wake in the night
                        and hear it raining
                        and go back to sleep.

                              – Wendell Berry (“Prayers and Sayings of the Mad Farmer”)

The lullaby that soothes my brain,
a metal roof under rain, proof
of gods and goddesses on the job

while I rest completely—let night
take me unafraid anywhere it wants
until the glistening of puddled mornings

blind me with glimpses of paradise
upon this earth, wet and wanting
nothing more from rustic religions.

Every church should acoustically angle
its spires and ridgelines to accentuate
these heaven’s gifts—and to withstand

retribution’s thunderous roar while
renting and gnashing huddle beneath
the storms that flood the rivers muddy.

We are not the architects, nor the nomads
chasing rain from place to place with herds
anymore. We pray instead for basic

sustenance to run upon and off our roofs,
season after season—no two the same—
to wake in the night and hear it raining.