Editor’s note: For the fourth year running, our friend and Huss Poet Laureate Elisabeth Wenger wrote a beautiful poem to help us celebrate Future Festival. She read the poem from the music stage during the Festival. Thank you, Elisabeth!
“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound…
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water.”
—“The Peace of Wild Things,” Wendell Berry
In face of dangers I take
what some might call the action of the ostrich.
Sand in my ears. Today all the newspapers
have said some things to which
I do not subscribe
Look, there’s a tree full of starlings,
strange fruit bunched like black plums
on the summer boughs, I bike past
and tip my helmet to them.
I write it down in a little book and
plan to make a poem of it someday,
when I get the time, but in the intervening days
I see more birds dead on the road
than were in the tree to begin with.
What jam we in cars make of that black-skinned fruit!
What red jelly!
Every beautiful thing I’ve ever seen grows up
to remind me of killing.
In danger’s face I take the only action
to which I can subscribe
I go and lie down.
While the bullets of my neighbor’s guns
shred the summer boughs above my head,
I take the action of the ostrich,
the osprey, the starling, swallow, gull,
and songbird: nesting.
For what is it but to make of
bare branch a hospitable place to rest?
To face dangers and to decide
to live in the midst of them, unafraid?
Look, I shall place a nest in the wilderness,
and the wilderness will lean into it,
will flow out of it and into it like a river
running through a watermill,
wetting the feet of the miller.
The nest shall grow and grow and send out
roots, shall by its being invite more nests,
shall place in face of dangers
You might tell me that this is naïve,
that a nest can only be wrecked,
swept away in wind or rain,
but that is what happened yesterday,
in all the newspapers, and I do not
to newspapers, or live
in yesterday, or the day
before that, or
the day before that, or the day
I live today. And I look up, watching as
the barn swallow, wings paper-sharp,
spits mouthful of mud on mouthful of mud,
turning round and round, a patient potter,
to build a chalice, tender grail.
I pull down the sky around me shred by shred
and wrap it close,
a blanket against the storms, and I stand here
mouth full of mud. It is not my first mouthful.
It will not be my last.