The Old Elm Tree by the River
Shrugging in the flight of its leaves
it is dying. Death is slowly
standing up in its trunk and branches
like a camouflaged hunter. In the night
I am awakened by one of its branches
crashing down, heavy as a wall, and then
lie sleepless, the world changed.
That is a life I know the country by.
Mine is a life I know the country by.
Willing to live and die, we stand here,
timely and at home, neighborly as two men.
Our place is changing in us as we stand,
and we hold up the weight that will bring us down.
In us the land enacts its history.
When we stood it was beneath us, and was
the strength by which we held to it
and stood, the daylight over it
a mighty blessing we cannot bear for long.
From Wendell Berry's Collected Poems 1957-1982
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