A Parting


From many hard workdays in the fields,

many passages through the woods,

many mornings on the river, lifting

hooked lines out of the dark,

from many nightfalls, many dawns,

on the ridgetops and the creek road,

as upright as a tree, as freely standing,

Arthur Rowanberry comes in his old age

into the care of doctors, into the prison

of technical mercy, disease

and hectic skill making their way

in his body, hungry invaders fighting

for claims in that dark homeland,

strangers touching him, calling his name,

and so he lies down at last

in a bare room far from home.

And we who know him come

from the places he knew us in, and stand

by his bed, and speak. He smiles

and greets us from another time.

We stand around him like a grove,

a moment's shelter, old neighborhood

remade in that alien place. But the time

we stand in is not his time.

He is off in the places of his life,

now only places in his mind,

doing what he did in them when they were

the world's places, and he the world's man:

cutting the winter wood, piling the brush,

fixing the fences, mending the roofs,

caring for the crops under the long sun,

loading up the wagon, heading home.


Wendell Berry