Sabbaths

By  |  March 13, 2018
© Irene Imfeld, from the series Phantasm: Autumn in the Kentucky Woods © Irene Imfeld, from the series Phantasm: Autumn in the Kentucky Woods

I

One white anemone,
the year’s first flower,
saves the world.

 

II

Across the distance he saw 
his granddaughter arriving 
at a meeting he was leaving. 

They called to each other 
in greeting and farewell. 
“I love you, Granddaddy.”  

“I love you too, honey,” 
he called back, and it was 
his father’s voice he heard 

uttered as his own, as from 
the distance behind him. 
And so he remembered  

again the ancient lineage 
of his love, given to him 
and again given, living 

backward, time beyond 
time, to the Love that called 
to Itself the heaven and the earth. 

 

III

How I wish I could have been 
already a young man 
already waiting for you 
the day you were born, and then 
I could have been already 
almost your husband, loving you 
from your first birthday, as 
in fact I do, beautiful as I knew you 
always, and I waiting 
while you grew to womanhood 
to recognize me then 
as your husband first and last, 
and our life together could begin. 
                                          4/30/16  

100 Feature Berry Imfeld Phantasm 4648

IV

When I speak to you of love 
I do not speak as I am 
but as I am in love with you 
which is better than I am, better 
than I can hope to be. 
                                              5/29/16 

 

V

For his while remaining, he 
would like to liken himself 
to the shadowy flycatcher, 
the watcher, on his dead branch 
at the clearing’s edge, standing 
ready to fly, his eye ever alert 
to the now that has ever been. 

 

VI

The watcher has come, as quiet 
as a shade, into the shadow 
of the ever-stirring woods. 
The small bird he loves 
who likes his porch, his narrow 
clearing, comes near him 
and is not afraid, at ease 
in the overlap between 
her mindfulness and his. 
For a time the pair of them 
equally find nothing to say, 
their quiet a kindly speech 
mutually understood.  

100 Feature Berry Imfeld Phantasm 4853

VII

What might not a poet write 
if the beautiful orange fritillary 
Aphrodite should light 
more than a moment on his hand.  


Silas House reads “Sabbaths”

Unable to embed Rapid1Pixelout audio player. Please double check that:  1)You have the latest version of Adobe Flash Player.  2)This web page does not have any fatal Javascript errors.  3)The audio-player.js file of Rapid1Pixelout has been included.


Special thanks to Silas House for reading Wendell Berry’s poems. House is the nationally best-selling author of five novels. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times and he currently serves as the NEH Chair at Berea College and on the fiction faculty at Spalding University’s MFA in Writing program. His latest novel, Southernmost, will be published in June 2018.

Enjoy these poems? Subscribe to the Oxford American

 

Wendell Berry is a poet, essayist, novelist, and farmer. He and his wife, Tanya, live and work on a farm in Port Royal, Kentucky. For more, visit the Berry Center at berrycenter.org.