Sunday, June 19, 2011

A poem by Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry is a Kentucky farmer and a poet, novelist and supporter of agrarian sustainable living. Below is a poem of his that I read today. I think it's worth sharing.

The Guest

Washed into the doorway
by the wake of the traffic,
he wears humanity
like a third-hand shirt
- blackened with enough
of Manhattan's dirt to sprout
a tree, or poison one.
His empty hand has led him
where he has come to.
Our differences claim us.
He holds out his hand,
in need of all that's mine.

And so we're joined, as deep
as son and father. His life
is offered me to choose.

Shall I begin servitude
to him? Let this cup pass.
Who am I?
But charity must
suppose, knowing no better,
that this is a man fallen
among thieves, or come
to this strait by no fault
- that our difference
is not a judgment,
though I can afford to eat
and am made his judge.

I am, I nearly believe,
the Samaritan who fell
into the ambush of his heart
on the way to another place.
My stranger waits, his hand
held out like something to read,
as though its emptiness
is an accomplishment.
I give him a smoke and the price
of a meal, no more

- not sufficient kindness
or believable sham.
I paid him to remain strange
to my threshold and table,
to permit me to forget him -
knowing I won't. He's the guest
of my knowing, though not asked.

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