A long-time special friend gave us an unknown fruit as we left her home recently. Neither of us remembered ever having seen one before, nor knew its name. So we ate it, and enjoyed it, and then made inquiry: “it’s persimmon”. And for hours afterwards I wondered where I’d heard of such a fruit before. How often have I said that one thing leads to another? A procession of common fruits passed my mind’s eye – and when I alighted upon berries I had my answer. Of course, Wendell Berry! …
The Wild Geese
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer’s end. In time’s maze
over fall fields, we name names
that went west from here, names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed’s marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear,
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye
clear. What we need is here.
What I find most fascinating about this slow-on-the-uptake remembrance is that I’ve loved this poem for years. And yet it can’t have been so much the words themselves that I have loved, for surely I’d have recalled the presence of persimmon herein earlier? What I have loved are – something I was writing about a day or two ago – the spaces in between. Here’s poetry’s genius: “we open a persimmon seed”. We reach inward.
Here within this poem, and between the lines, lies immensely poignant reaching to express what another great poet, the late W H Vanstone (in his marvellous hymn about the crucified Christ), called “love’s endeavour, love’s expense”. Seasons. The dearly loved (like old and special friends) temporally alive around us now, and – especially in times of autumnal reflection and remembrance – “names that went west from here”.
Where shall we find comfort when “summer days” (our own, as well as others’) are past? Well, says Berry, “in the seed’s marrow”, somewhere deep in the heart of our lives, “in promise, / pale”, in the place where we’re able to let go, to “abandon”, to fly, honking encouragement to one another, to live some more, and then to die, and again to live, between the lines, secure in faith, “quiet in heart, and in eye / clear. What we need is here.”
What a grace! A long-time special friend gave us an unknown fruit and in the spaces in between we’re led to “what we need is here”. Grace. Yes, and peace.