A Sabbath Reflection

To long for what can be fulfilled in time
Foredooms the body to the use of light,
Light into light returning, as the stream

Of days flows downward through us into night,
And into light and life and time to come.
This is the way of death: loss of what might

Have been in what must come to be, light’s sum
Lost in the having, having to forego.
The year drives on toward what it will become.

In answer to their names called long ago
The creatures all have risen and replied
Year after year, each toward the distant glow

Of its perfection in all, glorified;
Have failed. Year after year they all disperse
As the leaves fall, and not to be denied

The frost falls on the grass as by a curse.
The leaves flame, fall, and carry down their light
By a hard justice in the universe

Against all fragmentary tings. Their flight
Sends them downward into the dark, unseen
Empowerment of a universal right

That brings them back to air and light again,
One grand motion, implacable, sublime.
The calling of all creatures is design

We long for what can be fulfilled in time,
Though death is in the cost. There is a craving
As in delayed completion of a rhyme

To know what may be had by loss of having,
To see what loss of time will make of seed
In earth or womb, dark come to light, the saving

Of what was lost in what will come - repaid
In the invisible pattern that will mark
Whatever of the passing light is made

Choosing the light in which the sun is dark,
The stars dark, and all mortal vision blind -
That puts us out of thought and out of work,

And dark by day, in heart dark, dark in mind,
Mistaking for a song our lonely cry,
We turn in wrongs of love against our kind;

The fall returns. Our deeds and days gone by
Take root, bear fruit, are carried on, in faith
Or fault, through deaths all mortal things must die,

The deaths of time and pain, and death’s own death
In full-filled light and song, final Sabbath.
— Sabbath Poem XI (1979) Wendell Berry