March 23, 2005

A Poem : Wendell Berry.

Walking on the River Ice

A man could be a god
if the ice wouldn't melt
and he could stand the cold.

-- Wendell Berry, from Collected Poems

This is a wonderful poem. I hesitate to say too much about it, I want to give it the space and respect it deserves to speak for itself, silence and all. But see how such a simple, seemingly straight-forward image, evoked in only three lines, can touch upon a widely complex understanding of our all too human tendency to aspire to be a god, to "walk on water"--and the impossibility of that aspiration. Nature is a living thing: seasons will change, the ice will melt. And even we cannot abide solely in the cold abstractions and theories which try to hold the world still, to make it understandable and traversable. The very flux, diversity and change that humble us and sometimes frustrate us, are the things that keep us warm, keep our blood flowing and our skin tingling. Such a beautiful poem. I hope one day to write so simply and powerfully.


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