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Transit Zone by Martin Burke     < back : index : next >   

R e s p o n s e   :  2

2 : Wendell Berry

These are the Sabbaths of hope
These are the Sabbaths of love
An engagement with the earth and air
That was always in the making

The subtleties of craft that makes me ask
What is this great impertinence of beauty
that comes to the dying, even to the fallen,
without reason, sweetening the air?

Thoughts in the tower of the mind
Thoughts not answered by the mind
Though the mind longs for answers
Under the ripe and gorgeous sun

In this place to which we always return-
Water and trees,
A weir, some swans, and towers in the distance-
O I have told all this before and will tell it again

Whenever I walk in that place
Whenever I’m move to follow old steps
Upon the ancient battlements of this town
Which the heart has grown to call home

I walk on distracted by a letter
Distracted also by the abundance
That faces me –this whiteness, lightness, sweetness in the air
That calls out its articulation

Of those voices ringing in my mind
Co-mingling with the thoughts in the tower
As the three towers beyond call out in sun and clarity
That they have ousted time and its intention

As I must,
As I must so as to acknowledge
That it is to time that eternity bows
And brings my death each day a day closer

The mind is broken by the thousand calling voices
Of the air –as if the genius of place found a voice
I hear, respond to, note and make a measure of
So as to sing it in my room

Yes, this is what we long for – a work that is
Lifelong, longer than life
Where the quietness of the heart and the eye’s clarity

Achieve a harmony that can be danced to

Dancing on water, dancing on the beloved shoreline
There where you have awkwardly, as Neruda says,
Danced under the amber beauty of the moon
With amber shining in your heart

Sorrow, sweet sorrow and a bird’s song
Somewhere within it. The whole air vibrant.

The heart ringing out the psalms of sunlight
And the mind comforted there

I reach the last stand in my going
But what are destinations to the questioning mind?
Destinations are a pause before the new beginning
And we, we are always beginning

Beginning and beginning, hoping to be
Spared the belittlement of human intention
Seeking the comforts of the moon and the sun
When the seasons call us to a necessary affirmation

Long standing and our longing to understand
Other events, smaller and less significant

Which is for us, the privilege to see
The light stopped, at rest in its scintillation

This is where I walk
These are the thoughts in the tower-
A man that would be simple and dreamless
Amid the luminous small new leaves unfolding

And we are lost in what we are and would be
We whose privilege is our sorrow of unremembered time
Who carry time in our hearts and bones
And carrying, bless, un-bless, bless again the tress

In the blatant outline of their purpose in the renounced light
Of morning
O this is what we are called to in the right season
This is what moves the heart and mind

With hands newly come to the immortal work
Of memory and celebration
Of finding the words to tell the longing of the heart
To the mind and to the world

A world I could not see past
Where still there was forgiveness in time
Against the coming of the unforeseen

As if what had been the overworld had become the underworld

Of some Greek though I did not know I had-
Flanders and Greece, the old combination of the heart
The alliance I allied with in all my workings
Working in that double light

As a volleys of swallow rose into the brightening air
That had unearthly power to please the needs of heart and mind

And merely then to see them standing there was to know a prayer
The heart could call out as its own

The rayed imperial light sang in the leaves it made
In human time binding in rhyme of year with year
And now the remnant groves grow bright with praise

As I stand, witness and celebrant to beauty

To beauty –it is always to beauty that we sing
Even in the pale daylight which is holy, although we knew it not
Brought together as by a music, a form whose history is old

Older even than these Sabbaths of love

And I thought: This is the world we have set on fire
As a singer sings unseen in the Sabbath of the trees
And so I praise the joyous rage that justifies his page
And sing also for The commonwealth of peace

In our small imperfect love, in the ripe October light
We pray that the continent of love may be shaped within the continent of power

That dumbfoundment of the living flesh in this
Our dark and violent centaury may not make us unfaithful and afraid

This is the one prayer of beauty
This is the prayer of that place-
Place where I have returned and sung
In the great night that gathers up the earth and sky


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