“The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer”

Tuesday, August 23, 2016 - 5:30 am

“The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer”

 

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my
 inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission
 to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.
 I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,
 and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,
 and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven's favor,
 in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught
 so often laughing at funerals, that was because
 I knew the dead were already slipping away,
 preparing a comeback, and can I help it?
 And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed
 my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom
 had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not
 be resurrected by a piece of cake. ‘Dance,’ they told me,
 and I stood still, and while they stood
 quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.
 ‘Pray,’ they said, and I laughed, covering myself
 in the earth's brightnesses, and then stole off gray
 into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.
 When they said, ‘I know my Redeemer liveth,’
 I told them, ‘He's dead.’ And when they told me
 ‘God is dead,’ I answered, ‘He goes fishing every day
 in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.’
 When they asked me would I like to contribute
 I said no, and when they had collected
 more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.
 When they asked me to join them I wouldn't,
 and then went off by myself and did more
 than they would have asked. ‘Well, then,’ they said
 ‘go and organize the International Brotherhood
 of Contraries,’ and I said, ‘Did you finish killing
 everybody who was against peace?’ So be it.
 Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony
 thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what
 I say I don't know. It is not the only or the easiest
 way to come to the truth. It is one way.

© Wendell Berry. This poem is excerpted from “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry” and is reprinted with permission of the author and Counterpoint Press. For more poetry, visit our Poetry Radio Project.

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is a farmer, poet, and environmentalist who has published more than 40 books. He lives in Port Royal, Kentucky.

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