Tuesday, March 31, 2009

works in progress...

I wake up every morning
looking for a reason to stay here.
I go to bed every night

My living isn’t worth my breathing;
I don’t have days that make
the rest worthwhile.

I’m tired of lying to the doctors,
what makes their anesthesia
better than mine?
I’m tired of waiting to slip under,
won’t you please just give me a push…

Fill my soul with whisky
in the hope that I might drown.
Yes, I think if I keep pushing,
I can get further down.

All the tell-tale signs are here,
but no one’s looking…

I’m tired of lying to the doctors,
what makes their anesthesia
better than mine?
I’m tired of waiting to slip under,
won’t you please
give me a push…


chapter 2.

The dawn cracks
a new day open.
The first sound,
the peace
of your sleeping breath.

This is not the way
things are supposed to work.
This is the stuff
of fairy tales and make believe,
not textbooks.

Chapter 2 opens,
a page, unexpected,

Suspend disbelief.
And dip pen into ink.
There is nothing
that cannot be written
on these pages
so new,
they’ve not yet dried.

I take you in,
like that breath of air
so desperately needed
as the mouth
breaks the surface
of the water.

Grief transformed into joy.


I danced with the Devil
—fast and furious—
to the mighty whip of the fiddle.

My footwork was fine,
there was a glisten in his eye:
“Fairy tales are for fairies,” he snarled,
“And you my girl, are just that.”

The music stopped.
The room went black.
And I discovered that
the dance I thought the contest
was all illusion
to occupy me,
whilst he killed you
between the reels.


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Why is this place called Rough Branch?

Rough Branch is a reference to Wendell Berry's "mad farmer" poems. Berry is an agrarian populist poet, and advocate for sustainable agricultural practices. I don't agree with every position he takes, but his reverence for the beauty and balance of the natural world, for the preciousness of the life that runs through it (including our own), and of the community that sustains both the land and each other, speaks to my heart.

Over the past few years, I have sunk myself into the soil in my back yard, and into the community of neighbors that surrounds it, and it has begun to restore me. My garden is not just a plot of dirt providing vegetables for the salad bowl, it is an act of love, a place of profundity and awe. If you knew about the ecosystem that lives in but one gram of good earth, you would be humbled, literally, to the ground.

Berry's poems are passionate calls to live--deeply, profoundly, fearlessly. To step out of narrow-minded egotism, to secede "[f]rom the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation, [to] secede into care for one another, and for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth."

And so I have made my own nation small enough to walk across. I have named the small corner of the earth I steward Rough Branch. I have declared myself free of ignorant love, and I secede...

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
his own nation small enough to walk across.
(From "The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union")
The Mad Farmer challenges us to reconnect, to resurrect our land, our communities, and our souls.
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.
(From "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front")
All quotes from Wendell Berry.