Poem of the Week, by Wendell Berry

Photos 851When my children were tiny they went to a neighborhood preschool two or three mornings a week. It was a gentle place, taught by lovely teachers who never got upset if a glass of milk was toppled or if someone broke a crayon. There was a dress-up corner, a story-time corner, a Lego corner. In nice weather the kids went outside and worked and played in a flower garden the school had created along a biking and walking path.

If it was too cold, there was a big empty room with hardwood floors and lots of tricycles and scooters to zip around on. The one trike that every child craved was known as The Double Bike, because that’s exactly what it was, an elongated trike with two seats, kind of a primitive version of a tandem bicycle. It was a great day when someone got to ride The Double Bike first. 

Once I arrived very early to pick up my youngest. Recess was just about to begin. I stood in the doorway and watched as she –not knowing I was there– bent down in a sprinter’s crouch, a giant grin on her face. “Are you ready?” she said to her buddies. “Get ready!” As the door to the trike room opened, she and her friends zoomed toward The Double Bike. When I think of joy, I picture my daughter’s face on that day, how her black hair flew behind her, the echo of her wild laughter.

This past week some of my closest friends and I, quiet activists all, talked briefly about the effects of this past year on our health. Messed-up sleep. Apocalyptic nightmares. Stomach ailments. Weight gain. Weight loss. Heart problems. After the conversation I felt, weirdly, better. What’s that old saying, trouble shared is trouble halved? Solidarity soothes. 

But fighting against the forces of darkness is only part of this equation. Doing something for the pure joy of it, like my little girl at the gym, and like the kingfisher in this beautiful poem below, is another kind of activism. 


Before Dark
     – Wendell Berry

From the porch at dusk I watched
a kingfisher wild in flight
he could only have made for joy.

He came down the river, splashing
against the water’s dimming face
like a skipped rock, passing

on down out of sight. And still
I could hear the splashes
farther and farther away

as it grew darker. He came back
the same way, dusky as his shadow,
sudden beyond the willows.

The splashes went on out of hearing.
It was dark then. Somewhere
the night had accommodated him

—at the place he was headed for
or where, led by his delight,
he came.


For more information on Wendell Berry, please click here.