Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Changing Circumstances   16 comments

I apologize for the radio silence of late. I’ve been in the midst of some changing circumstances, looking for a new place to live and making trips into Portland. Coupled with that activity has been a distinct lack of urgent or well-formed ideas for posts, which has led to a distinct lack of updates for the last month or so.

So instead of something thoughtful and considered, here are the quick life updates:

  • I’ll be moving, literally, a bit further down the road at the beginning of the new year. I will continue the same work I’ve been doing and am simply changing my living arrangements. My current residence has been great for me the last nine months or so, but it’s time for a shift.
  • My new living quarters will see me living with a couple. I’ve gone back and forth on my thoughts about an ideal living arrangement, but I’ve been swinging back toward community of late. I think it will be good to live with others. The isolation of living alone is challenging at times, in a variety of ways.
  • I have picked up a number of interesting books of late: Sandor Ellix Katz’s The Art of Fermentation, Wendell Berry’s New Collected Poems and his new essay collection It All Turns on Affection, John Michael Greer’s Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, Rick Bass’s novel Where the Sea Used to Be, and the 1972 illustrated abridgement of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History. I think these all will lead to much good thought.
  • I already have devoured Greer’s Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth. It leaves me yet more interested in studying within one of the mystery schools, as I continue to feel the draw of some kind of spiritual ecology. Early this year, I had designs on druidry, but I never followed through on that. We’ll see where this current desire goes; I need to study more on the subject.
  • Finally, this blog continues to marinate in the back of my mind. I have thoughts about where it might go as well of thoughts of shutting it down. Yet there still is plenty I would like to write about. I plan to reevaluate once I’ve made my new year’s move and am figuring out my new patterns of living. There may be one or more updates before then, but it also may stay quiet here until then.

I’m always interested in what my visitors are up to, so please provide me some life updates of your own in the comments, should you feel so compelled. As a small apology for the quiet of late, I’ll leave you with two Wendell Berry poems. First, “The Reassurer.” Following that, an actual—small, but yet large—reassurance.

— ∞ —

THE REASSURER

A people in the throes of national prosperity, who
breathe poisoned air, drink poisoned water, eat
poisoned food,
who take poisoned medicines to heal them of the poisons
that they breathe, drink, and eat,
such a people crave the further poison of official
reassurance. It is not logical,
but it is understandable, perhaps, that they adore
their President who tells them that all is well,
all is better than ever.
The President reassures the farmer and his wife who
have exhausted their farm to pay for it, and have
exhausted themselves to pay for it,
and have not paid for it, and have gone bankrupt for
the sake of the free market, foreign trade, and the
prosperity of corporations;
he consoles the Navahos, who have been exiled from their
place of exile, because the poor land contained
something required for the national prosperity,
after all;
he consoles the young woman dying of cancer caused by a
substance used in the normal course of national
prosperity to make red apples redder;
he consoles the couple in the Kentucky coalfields, who
sit watching TV in their mobile home on the mud of
the floor of a mined-out stripmine;
from his smile they understand that the fortunate have
a right to their fortunes, that the unfortunate have
a right to their misfortunes, and that these are
equal rights.
The President smiles with the disarming smile of a man
who has seen God, and found Him a true American,
not overbearingly smart.
The President reassures the Chairman of the Board of the
Humane Health for Profit Corporation of America,
who knows in his replaceable heart that health, if
it came, would bring financial ruin;
he reassures the Chairman of the Board of the Victory
and Honor for Profit Corporation of America, who
has been wakened in the night by a dream of the
calamity of peace.

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Posted December 13, 2012 by Joel Caris in Meta, Poetry

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On This Day, A Mad Farmer Poem   4 comments

I returned shortly ago to the quiet apartment where I’m staying here in Portland for the holidays, entrusted to me by friends who are out of town for their own holiday celebrations. I came back to it tonight from a rowdy Christmas Eve spent with family. We exchanged presents and cracked innumerable jokes—many of them inappropriate—and ate so very much. It was not quite as conspicuous as past Christmas Eve celebrations have been, but it was conspicuous nonetheless. Yet it was nice, enjoyable, a fun gathering of family and a wide expression of good cheer. It was loud throughout, though, and coming back to this silent apartment is quite the contrast, inspiring some late-night reflection.

I received a few Wendell Berry books tonight as gifts, as well as a bevy of other beautiful and intriguing texts that I look forward to exploring. But coming home tonight—to my temporary home, this lovely gift from my friends—I couldn’t help but set aside my new books and pick up instead the hardcover edition of The Mad Farmer Poems, left out by my friends for me to peruse while staying here. I read the Author’s Note, the Foreword, the Introduction, the first couple poems, and soon came to a particular poem I’ve read before and have loved unconditionally, every time I read it. It’s a beautiful poem, a moving call to action, and if you find yourself caught in the craziness of Christmas and the holidays as I am finding myself to be, I think this is a poem to keep in your mind and heart. Read it, speak it aloud, know it, and hold it close on this day, and the days to come. For the Mad Farmer may just be the person best able to keep you sane in these odd times.

 

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
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.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry, 1973

Posted December 25, 2011 by Joel Caris in Farming, Poetry

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