The Way of Pain: Wendell Berry

The Way of Pain

1.
For parents, the only way
is hard. We who give life
give pain. There is no help.
Yet we who give pain
give love; by pain we learn
the extremity of love.

2.
I read of Abraham’s sacrifice
the Voice required of him,
so that he led to the altar
and the knife his only son.
The beloved life was spared
that time, but not the pain.
It was the pain that was required.

3.
I read of Christ crucified,
the only begotten Son
sacrificed to flesh and time
and all our woe. He died
and rose, but who does not tremble
for his pain, his loneliness,
and the darkness of the sixth hour?
Unless we grieve like Mary
at His grace, giving Him up
as lost, no Easter morning comes.

4.
And then I slept, and dreamed
the life of my only son
was required of me, and I
must bring him to the edge
of pain, not knowing why.
I woke, and yet that pain
was true. It brought his life
to the full in me. I bore him
suffering, with love like the sun,
too bright, unsparing, whole.

Wendell Berry

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Duality: Wendell Berry


Duality

So God created man in his
own image, in the image of God
created he him; male and female
created he them.

I
To love is to suffer – did I
know this when first
I asked you for your love?
I did not. And yet until
I knew, I could not know what
I asked, or gave. I gave
a suffering that I took: yours
and mine, mine when yours;
and yours I have feared most.

II
What can bring us past
this knowledge, so that you
will never wish our life
undone? For if ever you
wish it so, then I must wish
so too, and lovers yet unborn,
whom we are reaching toward
with love, will turn to this
page, and find it blank.

III
I have feared to be unknown
and to offend – I must speak,
then, against the dread
of speech. What if, hearing,
you have no reply, and mind’s
despair annul the body’s hope?
Life in time may justify
any conclusion, whenever
our will is to conclude.

IV
Look at me now. Now,
after all the years, look at me
who have no beauty apart
from what we two have been
and made. Look at me
with the look that anger
and pain have taught you,
the gaze in which nothing
is guarded, nothing withheld.

V
You look at me, you give
a light, which I bear and return,
and we are held, and all
our time is held, in this
touching look – this touch
that, pressed against the touch
returning in the dark,
is almost sight. We burn
and see by our own light.

VI
Eyes looking into eyes looking
into eyes, touches that see
in the dark, remember Paradise,
our true home. God’s image
recalls us to Itself. We move
with motion not our own,
light upon light, day and
night, sway as two trees
in the same wind sway.

VII
Let us come to no conclusion,
but let our bodies burn
in time’s timelessness. Heaven
and earth give us to this night
in which we tell each other of
a Kingdom yet to come, saying
its secret, its silent names.
We become fleshed words, one
another’s uttered joy.

VIII
Joined in our mortal motion,
we come to the resurrection
of words; they rise up
in our mouths, set free
of taints, errors, and bad luck.
In their new clarities
the leaf brightens, the air
clears, the syllables of water are
clear in the dark air as stars.

IX
We come, unsighted, in the dark,
to the great feast of lovers
where nothing is withheld.
That we are there we know
by touch, by inner sight.
They all are here, who by
their giving take, by taking
give, who by their living
love, and by loving live.

Wendell Berry