Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Native Hill

I am heading back toward home soon for Christmas - early this week.
For awhile, I thought that it was good to call whatever place I was in, I was living, my home, in order to fully define myself as a man - a rock - carrying his home on his back like a manly snail. Snails are manly in this sense.
Irvine is lovely, and I can feel myself acclimating to its oceanview desert scrubbrush wilderness. But it is not home. It is not in my blood. And the ridiculous suit of armor, concrete and plastic, that has been pulled over top of its rooty desert beauty, makes it nearly impossible for me to love it fully.
Can a man love a city? Yes. A city, glass and chrome, does not seem quite as much of an insult to land as this sprawling suburbia that Irvine is made of - that shrieks when it sees an open spot, diving to clap a strip mall over it.
The Lord is making me sane in an insane world. I am afraid it is going to be painful. I am afraid of the pain of sanity in America.
Wendell Berry, author of the essay A Native Hill, has his land in Kentucky - he can stand back and say "Well at least I settled in a place, and raised a family, and did not destroy, but shepherded, made good." Wendell, I am a wanderer - I am a shepherd only to a flock of wild visions.
Can a man find a home in an idea? Can he find home in a Spirit? Can he find home in a woman?
This below is one the last poems from Shepherd, which I've been working on over the course of the last year.


If in the wild places of the world
you come across the cloaked figure
of a man clenching a black bag
pacing or perched in a squat
on the high point of a desert rock,
violently sweating,

leave him be. He
is looking for his home

and he does not have a home.


james t nath said...


Very good. And not just nice. The first stanza does well to stick close to only a vision. And then somewhere between the tension of the cloaked figure and the implied impulse of the reader I feel the single command of your poem: "let him be" and it feels like the cool and quiet ability to let be that comes either from grass and shade or from any type of having found a place to belong.

The last line is well set apart. Somehow it is not devastating to not have a home, only uncomfortable to the point of needing to grieve.

Iraq is no place to belong, brother.

The last line is so simple. It is very good.

Ryan said...

I really like the images of the manly snail and Irvine shrieking and diving to cover up open land.