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Today’s guest poet  —  Wendell Berry

The Country of Marriage


I dream of you walking at night along the streams
of the country of my birth, warm blooms and the nightsongs,   
of birds opening around you as you walk.
You are holding in your body the dark seed of my sleep. 


This comes after silence. Was it something I said   
that bound me to you, some mere promise   
or, worse, the fear of loneliness and death?   
A man lost in the woods in the dark, I stood
still and said nothing. And then there rose in me,   
like the earth’s empowering brew rising
in root and branch, the words of a dream of you   
I did not know I had dreamed. I was a wanderer   
who feels the solace of his native land
under his feet again and moving in his blood.   
I went on, blind and faithful. Where I stepped   
my track was there to steady me. It was no abyss   
that lay before me, but only the level ground. 


Sometimes our life reminds me
of a forest in which there is a graceful clearing   
and in that opening a house,
an orchard and garden,
comfortable shades, and flowers
red and yellow in the sun, a pattern
made in the light for the light to return to.   
The forest is mostly dark, its ways
to be made anew day after day, the dark
richer than the light and more blessed,   
provided we stay brave   
enough to keep on going in. 


How many times have I come to you out of my head   
with joy, if ever a man was,
for to approach you I have given up the light   
and all directions. I come to you
lost, wholly trusting as a man who goes
into the forest unarmed. It is as though I descend    
slowly earthward out of the air. I rest in peace   
in you, when I arrive at last. 


Our bond is no little economy based on the exchange   
of my love and work for yours, so much for so much
of an expendable fund. We don’t know what its limits are—
that puts it in the dark. We are more together
than we know, how else could we keep on discovering   
we are more together than we thought?
You are the known way leading always to the unknown,
and you are the known place to which the unknown is always   
leading me back. More blessed in you than I know,   
I possess nothing worthy to give you, nothing   
not belittled by my saying that I possess it.   
Even an hour of love is a moral predicament, a blessing   
a man may be hard up to be worthy of. He can only   
accept it, as a plant accepts from all the bounty of the light   
enough to live, and then accepts the dark,   
passing unencumbered back to the earth, as I   
have fallen time and again from the great strength   
of my desire, helpless, into your arms. 


What I am learning to give you is my death   
to set you free of me, and me from myself
into the dark and the new light. Like the water   
of a deep stream, love is always too much. We   
did not make it. Though we drink till we burst   
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst.
In the evening we come down to the shore   
to drink our fill, and sleep, while it
flows through the regions of the dark.
It does not hold us, except we keep returning   
to its rich waters thirsty. We enter,
willing to die, into the commonwealth of its joy. 


I give you what is unbounded, passing from dark to dark,   
containing darkness: a night of rain, an early morning.   
I give you the life I have let live for love of you:   
a clump of orange-blooming weeds beside the road,   
the young orchard waiting in the snow, our own life   
that we have planted in this ground, as I
have planted mine in you. I give you my love for all   
beautiful and honest women that you gather to yourself   
again and again, and satisfy—and this poem,   
no more mine than any man’s who has loved a woman.

May 2010


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