The Mad Farmer in the City
“. . .a field woman is a portion of the field;
she has somehow lost her own margin . . .”
As my first blow against it, I would not stay.
As my second, I learned to live without it.
As my third, I went back one day and saw
that my departure had left a little hole
where some of its strength was flowing out,
and I heard the earthing singing beneath the street.
Singing quietly myself, I followed the song
among the traffic. Everywhere I went, singing,
following the song, the stones cracked,
and I heard it stronger. I heard it strongest
in the presence of women. There was one I met
who had the music of the ground in here, and she
was its dancer. “O Exile,” I sang, “for want of you
there is a tree that has borne no leaves
and a planting season that will not turn warm.”
Looking at her, I felt he tightening of roots
under the pavement, and I turned and went
with her a little way, dancing beside her.
And I saw a black woman still inhabiting
as in a dream the space of the open fields
where she had bent to plant and gather. She stood
rooted in the music I heard, pliant and proud
as a stalk of wheat with the grain heavy. No man
with the city thrusting angles in his brain
is equal to her. To reach her he must tear it down.
Wherever lovely women are the city is undone,
its geometry broken in pieces and lifted,
its streets and corners fading like mist at sunrise
above groves and meadows and planted fields.
by Wendell Berry
from Farming- A Handbook
Harvest Books, 1967