Memorial Day 2012
May 27, 2012 04:06 PM Filed in: ISSUES
Any man’s death could end the story:
his mourners having accompanied him
to the grave through all he knew,
turn back, leaving him complete.
But this is not the story of life.
It is the story of lives, knit together,
overlapping in succession, rising
again from grave after grave.
For those who depart from it, bearing it
in their minds, the grave is a beginning.
It has weighted the earth with sudden
new gravity, the enrichment of pain.
There is a grave, too, in each
survivor. By it, the dead one lives.
He enters us, a broken blade,
sharp, clear as a lens or mirror.
And he comes into us helpless, tender
as the newborn enter the world. Great
is the burden of our care. We must be true
to ourselves. How else will he know us?
Like a wound, grief receives him.
Like graves, we heal over, and yet keep
as part of ourselves the severe gift.
By grief, more inward than darkness,
the dead become the intelligences of life.
Where the tree falls, the forest rises
There is nowhere to stand but in absence,
no life but in the fateful light.
From The Collected Poems of Wendell Berry, 1957-1982