The Contrariness of the Mad Farmer

I am done with apologies. If contrariness is my

inheritance and destiny, so be it. If it is my mission

to go in at exits and come out at entrances, so be it.

I have planted by the stars in defiance of the experts,

and tilled somewhat by incantation and by singing,

and reaped, as I knew, by luck and Heaven’s favor,

in spite of the best advice. If I have been caught

so often laughing at funerals, that was because

I knew the dead were already slipping away,

preparing a comeback, and can I help it?

And if at weddings I have gritted and gnashed

my teeth, it was because I knew where the bridegroom

had sunk his manhood, and knew it would not

be resurrected by a piece of cake. ‘Dance,’ they told me,

and I stood still, and while they stood

quiet in line at the gate of the Kingdom, I danced.

‘Pray,’ they said, and I laughed, covering myself

in the earth’s brightnesses, and then stole off gray

into the midst of a revel, and prayed like an orphan.

When they said, ‘I know my Redeemer liveth,’

I told them, ‘He’s dead.’ And when they told me

‘God is dead,’ I answered, ‘He goes fishing ever day

in the Kentucky River. I see Him often.’

When they asked me would I like to contribute

I said no, and when they had collected

more than they needed, I gave them as much as I had.

When they asked me to join them I wouldn’t,

and then went off by myself and did more

than they would have asked. ‘Well, then,’ they said

‘go and organize the International Brotherhood

of Contraries,’ and I said, ‘Did you finish killing

everybody who was against peace?’ So be it.

Going against men, I have heard at times a deep harmony

thrumming in the mixture, and when they ask me what

I say I don’t know. It is not the only or the easiest

way to come to the truth. It is one way.

~ Wendell Barry



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