A Sunday Poem – A Costly Year

And hasn’t it been such a costly year? 2020 feels unredeemable in so many ways. But here’s some thoughts from Wendell Berry.

By expenditure of hope,
Intelligence, and work,
You think you have it fixed.
It is unfixed by rule.
Within the darkness, all
Is being changed, and you
Also will be changed.

Now I recall to mind
A costly year: Jane Kenyon,
Bill Lippert, Philip Sherrard,
All in the same spring dead,
So much companionship
Gone as the river goes.

And my good workhouse Nick
Dead, who called out to me
In his conclusive pain
To ask my help. I had
No help to give. And flood
Covered the cropland twice.
By summer’s end there are
No more perfect leaves.

But won’t you be ashamed
To count the passing year
At its mere cost, your debt
Inevitably paid?
For every year is costly,
As you know well. Nothing
Is given that is not
Taken, and nothing taken
That was not first a gift.

The gift is balanced by
Its total loss, and yet,
And yet the light breaks in,
Heaven seizing its moments
That are at once its own
And yours. The day ends
And is unending where
The summer tanger,
Warbler, and vireo
Sing as they move among
illuminated leaves.

This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems, Wendell Berry

May we all be changed by this darkness in the best possible ways.


11 thoughts on “A Sunday Poem – A Costly Year

Add yours

  1. This year has been costly is so many ways but yet it is teaching each individual about ourself. It’s a year of learning our priorities, our commitments, our way of thinking. It has been a year of examining ourselves about what is truly important to us. This has been a hard and costly year and it’s not over yet. I’m afraid it isn’t going to change with the start of 2021 either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right about all of this. I’m trying to stay optimistic about 2021, but this fall and winter will likely be even more difficult. I’m going to keep looking for the rays of hope!


  2. “Nothing
    Is given that is not
    Taken, and nothing taken
    That was not first a gift.”

    These lines really speak to me, and while they’re true every year, they feel especially true this year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m glad you liked it, Jordy. I really like “You think you have it fixed. / It is unfixed by rule.” Stop fooling yourself – we never have anything figured out!!


  3. perfect. Wendell Berry for writing it … and you for sharing. “But won’t you be ashamed To count the passing year At its mere cost” 2020 in a nutshell. and yet. and yet. and … (thank you!)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you found something to love in it. Lately I’ve caught myself thinking, what would Wendell Berry think…? I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not! I’m so ready to be finished with 2020!


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