Wendell Berry

 In a Motel Parking Lot,
Thinking of Dr. Williams

   The poem is important, but
   not more than the people
   whose survival it serves,

   one of the necessities, so they may
   speak what is true, and have
   the patience for beauty: the weighted

   grainfield, the shady street,
   the well-laid stone and the changing tree
   whose branches spread above.

   For want of songs and stories
   they have dug away the soil,
   paved over what is left,

   set up their perfunctory walls
   in tribute to no god,
   for the love of no man or woman,

   so that the good that was here
   cannot be called back
   except by long waiting, by great

   sorrow remembered and to come
   by invoking the understones
   of the world, and the vivid air.

   The poem is important,
   as the want of it
   proves. It is the stewardship

   of its own possibility,
   the past remembering itself
   in the presence of

   the present, the power learned
   and handed down to see
   what is present

   and what is not: the pavement
   laid down and walked over
   regardlessly—by exiles, here

   only because they are passing.
   Oh, remember the oaks that were
   here, the leaves, purple and brown,

   falling, the nuthatches walking
   headfirst down the trunks,
   crying "onc! onc!" in the brightness

   as they are doing now
   in the cemetery across the street
   where the past and the dead

   keep each other. To remember,
   to hear and remember, is to stop
   and walk on again

   to a livelier, surer measure.
   It is dangerous
   to remember the past only

   for its own sake, dangerous
   to deliver a message
   that you did not get.