Openings: A Glosa in Honor of Wendell Berry

This is a glosa, a poetry form that Sam Peralta has challenged us to write for dVerse Form For All night. He explains it well–essentially, it’s 4 stanzas, 10 lines each, the 6th, 9th, and 10th lines rhyming. And, most important, each last stanza line is taken from a cabeza, a 4-line heading that is borrowed from a favorite poet one wishes to honor. I’m pretty late getting this out, since I wasn’t sure I would have time today to read and comment. It could have turned out better (I was rushing! something I am opposed to in this poem!!), but it is something I can work with later on. 

I walk in openings
That when I’m dead will close.
Where the field sparrow sings
Will come the sweet wild rose.
            (Wendell Berry, Sabbath Poems, 1990, IV)
When I was younger
I liked to force my way
Through the woods. The most
Tangled path made me
Feel brave, lording my
Superior wits against Nature, cutting
My way through wildness.
Imagine my surprise, now
That I’m finding
I walk in openings,
Slowly, taking only those steps
Freely offered by the way.
It’s a different kind
Of bravery—non-combative,
Even doubtful. In openings
I am exposed,
Seeing and being seen
By things that live on
The shadow-boundary that’s imposed,
That when I’m dead will close.
And there is a
Hushed joy even in that
Which makes life
A hymn to limitation,
A song of surrender, like
The murmur of wave-rings
Circling out from a thrown stone.
The light rain has begun
To fall in the opening
Where the field sparrow sings
Her single trilled note
To the graying sky.
I am still. A single
Step would feel
Like blasphemy, like breaking
Faith with those
Whose lives are entwined
With mine, soon not to be.
Yet, after we all die and decompose

Will come the sweet wild rose.


31 thoughts on “Openings: A Glosa in Honor of Wendell Berry

  1. Rushed job it might be – yet wonderfully written.

    Oh the joy of the innocence of childhood when life is a mountain to be climbed, fearless, and then as we approach twilight we begin to descend that mountain, know caution and step slowly and (hopefully) wisely…

    Anna :o]


  2. This is beautifully composed Nico, no awkward lines at all ~ I like the turn of hushed joy in the third verse, the reverence for the nature is sharp with field sparrow singing ~

    A gem to read this afternoon ~


  3. So beautiful, Nico… the images and sounds. I especially like:

    In openings
    I am exposed,
    Seeing and being seen
    By things that live on
    The shadow-boundary that’s imposed,
    That when I’m dead will close.


  4. really a very cool glosa man….i can relate to walking through the thickest woods and now finding yourself in openings…and the exposure of that is def a different kind of bravery…smooth flow…lovely words man…


  5. This walk in the wood talking about ageing the memories of younger days, the openings, the joy of birds singing and ultimately death… and a then the rose. a circle of life poem that really talked to me.


  6. oh wow…from forcing the way to honoring and taking only what the path offers us freely…what a change of thinking…what growth…what wisdom…very cool nico


  7. Thanks Laurie–those lines were inspired by a different Berry poem, where he writes “Then what is afraid of me comes / and lives a while in my sight.”


  8. Thanks Bjorn–some people find it easier to meditate on the Big Issues in a cloister or darkened room. I've always found my thinking is clearer by being outdoors. Clearer to me, anyway, which isn't saying much!


  9. Nico, this is absolutely my favorite so far. It reads like a meditation on life for me and I'm definitely going to look up this poet who inspired you. The name is familiar but my memory isn't the best anymore. Anyone who read me from time-to-time knows that my favorite contemporary poet is Mary Oliver, and this feels like something she would write. Thank you so much.


  10. You know how successful this poem was? It reminded me again of the joys of Wendell Berry, that I hadn't opened up any of his works in a very long time, and that I should – I really should – read him again. And that, my friend, is the amazing thing about a tribute poem; it takes the light reflected on you by an honoured poet, and shines it back, and that light is re-reflected so that it burnishes once-read verses once again. And your poem is wonderful, taking the kernel from Berry's quatrain, and finding in it something more, a meaning not anticipated by Berry, speaking of the changes within us all as we grow old – and yet while different, both speaking of the wonder of quietude. Bravo!


  11. Thanks Victoria–I hope you will look him up. Of all living writers he has influenced me the most. His work is deeply rooted in place, and intently aware of the glory of Nature.


  12. Thanks Rosemary–he's been writing what he calls “Sabbath Poems” for a very long time (since the 1970s at least). On Sundays he often takes walks through the woods, then writes about what he sees or thinks about. He is, to me, a kindred spirit!


  13. this is beautiful. you transformed those lines—entwined them—quite exquisitely. I like your change from the first to second stanza…the way your bravery has transformed over time. oh, but the last two stanzas….breathtaking.


  14. Not unconscious–now that would really be something!–I meant unintended, just something that happens due to long acquaintance with his work.


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