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Posted on 6.05.2015
I am tired of myself.
And not, let me say,
in any morbid, psychopathological sense.
(And why do we so quickly go there?
I’ve become impatient with the mental health frame and worry.
How everything is shadowed
by diagnoses and the fear
of being mentally ill.
who among us is healthy?
Let me be sick for a moment.
If that is what this is.
Which it isn’t.)
As I said. I’m tired. Of myself.
Not sad. Not depressed. Not suicidal. Not dark.
Tired of being an ego. Having an ego.
I’m tired of filtering everything through myself.
What I like. What I agree with.
What I don’t like. What I don’t agree with.
Who put me in charge of sifting the world?
Which goes to my point.
Why is it my unthought assumption that everything is about me?
Like a reflex of mind,
a twitch of the soul.
And this isn’t the expression of a desire
to escape into some other person or life.
This isn’t envy.
The grass isn’t all that greener
on your side of the fence.
This is a weariness
of being at the center of my thoughts and concerns. Weary
that everything, good and bad,
is about this self at the center of it all.
I want to forget myself.
To not see myself reflected
in every thought or flicker of feeling.
–an unpublished poem
Abba Jacob and The Theologian
by Marilyn Nelson
Thanking him for spending
the entire afternoon
and half the dinner hour
discussing the various ramifications
of the essentially paradoxical nature
the theologian interrupts her first
spoonful of lentils
to lean forward again
and cut off
the flow of God.
Reverend Father, she asks,
what is the highest spiritual value?
Abba Jacob looks to heaven
Humor, he says.
Not seriously, of course.
Originally published in Magnificat (1994)
Republished in The Fields of Praise (1997)
Image: Marilyn age 4, photo: Melvin M. Nelson, Sr.
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry, from The Mad Farmer Poems (2014)
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion — put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
God slips His likeness of me under His pillow.
Morning grows cloudy, the house darkens,
and I know what the rain at the sill is saying:
Be finished with resemblances. Your lamp
hides the light. A voice, being a voice and not the wind,
can’t carry anything away. And yet,
it makes any land a place, a country of the air,
and laughter its seventh day.
Last night I dreamed of voices in a grove.
Ladders reaching from the ground into the branches.
I was mending my children’s shirts, worrying if the light would last
long enough for me to thread the needle.
Now I’m nodding with the trees in the wind,
counting seconds between the lightning and the thunder,
deaf to former things, unencumbered of things to come,
and leaving God to recoup
a human fate.
God snores, His sleep immense
and musty with the season’s litter.
God rolls over in His sleep
and churns the sea-bed
to dislodge many buried keys.
Outside, a bird is telling time’s green name.
It stops when I stop to listen,
and starts again as soon as I give up
holding my breath to hear it,
as though whole-hearted listening intrudes
where hearing ajar makes room for singing
so tender my attention snuffs it,
or else so brimming
my ear’s least turning spills it.
God takes out again that portrait
he makes of me each day, now adding, now erasing,
and time is a black butterfly, pinned
while someone searches for its name in a book.
Among Li-Young Lee‘s many awards are the Poetry Society of America’s William Carlos Williams Award for his third book, Book of My Nights, and the American Book Award for his memoir, The Winged Seed. His most recent book is Behind My Eyes.