Poem XII from Wendell Berry’s Sabbaths

Poem XII from Wendell Berry’s Sabbaths.
 
 
“Maybe,” Mr. Ernest said. “The best word in our language, the best of all.
—William Faulkner, “Race at Morning”
 
At the end of a long time
the bookkeeper sits down with his book.
He enters all that he has learned
of suffering, grief, and ugliness,
of cruelty, waste, and loss,
stupidity, meanness, falsehood,
selfishness, loneliness, and greed.
He reckons all these as a great
weight he has no way of weighing.
He enters then all he has learned
of joy, goodness, beauty, love,
of generosity, grace, and laughter,
good sense, honesty, compassion,
mercy, and forgiveness.
And these also weigh an unweighable
weight that registers only
on his heart. He cannot at last
complete and close his book.
He cannot say of evil and good,
which outweighs the other,
though he feels his time’s rage
for quantification, and he would like
to know. He only can suppose
the things of goodness, the most
momentary, are in themselves
so whole, so bright, as to redeem
the darkness and trouble of the world
though we set it all afire.
“Maybe,” the bookkeeper says. “Maybe.”
For he knows that in a time
gone mad for certainty, “maybe”
gives room to live and move and be.
 
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Cathedral School for Boys

Located in San Francisco, CA, Cathedral School for Boys is an independent elementary school for boys in grades K-8. Our Mission is to provide an excellent education through intellectual inquiry and rigor that is centered in the Episcopal tradition and is respectful of and welcoming to people of all religious traditions and beliefs.
1275 Sacramento Street, San Francisco, CA 94108   •   Phone: 415.771.6600   •   Fax: 415.771.2547