A poem for resurrection … and refuse

My friend Gordon reminded me of one of Wendell Berry’s poems. I remember, vaguely, first reading it not long after my 23rd birthday — as green to pastoral ministry as I was fragile in my dogged pursuit of holiness. It remains a gentle but profound reminder of the ‘organic’ connections between death and life, creation and re-creation, old and new, refuse and resurrection.  Thanks Gordon.

A Purification

At the start of spring
I open a trench in the ground.
I put into it
the winter’s accumulation of paper,
pages I do not want to read again,
useless words, fragments, errors.
And I put into it
the contents of the outhouse:
light of the sun,
growth of the ground,
finished with one of their journeys.

To the sky, to the wind, then,
and to the faithful trees,
I confess my sins:
that I have not been happy enough,
considering my good luck;
have listened to too much noise;
have been inattentive to wonders;
have lusted after praise.

And then upon the gathered refuse
of mind and body,
I close the trench,
folding shut again the dark,
the deathless earth.
Beneath that seal
the old escapes into the new.

(From Wendell Berry, Collected Poems: 1957-1982)


  1. That is what I call real down to earth theology. Seriously though Berry’s poetry is readable yet careful and rich in its use of language.


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