Community is big. It is human and animal, soil and water, wind and sky. We are all interconnected and when we inflict pain or show love to one, it ripples throughout the commons. Walter’s poem reflects on this intertwined reality, expanding our imagination through the personification of the Earth.
O Land, Land, Land (Jeremiah 22:29)
by Walter Brueggemann
The land, when it is honored and respected,
It weeps long sadness
because it knows such durable abuse.
It weeps the pollution that fouls the soil
and stenches the sea.
It weeps for fossil heat that melts its ice.
It weeps for agribusiness that disregards natural yield.
It weeps the violence of armies to and fro in rapacious violence.
It saddens for the anthropocene that imagines mastery rather than partnership;
It cries all night and sheds day-time tears for the terror that begins again at sunrise.
It dares to make such lamenting noises,
because it knows that its voice is proper and
and merits being heard and heeded.
This groaning land does not know how late it is,
nor do we.
It knows, nonetheless, that it late, very late, maybe too late.
For that reason partly protest, partly grief alongside part rage.
The tired land picks up the cadence of Jeremiah
who witnessed royal indifference,
elite exploitation, and
foolishness among the chosen who assumed a blank check from the creator.
The land heard the word of the Lord,
a word that declared the end of chosenness,
a termination of privilege, and
a finish to security and blessing…
because the creator of the earth (aka the creator of heaven)
will not be mocked.
The earth in its sad helplessness wept the bitter tears of abandonment.
The land, when dishonored and disrespected, could not weep. It had been reduced to
inanimate object and
It could not weep.
It remained mute, stilled by imposition;
it settled for numb and dumb, succumbing in obedient silence;
it yielded passively to its uncaring masters.
The land uttered not a peep at the humiliation,
but produced its welcome goodness for the exploiter.
The land uttered not a syllable at the threat of fossil pollution.
The soil had not heard response to the land-rape of war,
or spoken anguish from the punishing burden of exclusion.
That mute submissive silence was just fine with Prometheus.
That possessor of fire and all things magical did not care, and
did not listen, and
did not notice.
The gods of endless know-how proceeded in their unthinking indifference.
They had resources and missed signs of limit.
The had abundant technique and missed imagination;
They had ample explanatory theory and missed mystery.
And the land submitted, having no choice,
completely supine at the imposed vocation of production.
Weeping lingers for the night,
a long night,
the nightmare of Descartes, Bacon, and their contemporaries,
a long night of those who have never read Descartes or Bacon,
but who learned their lessons deeply.
The weeping lingers for four hundred years of technology with all is blessings,
five hundred years of brutalizing slavery,
long centuries of modern illusion cast as reason.
But the dawn comes;
the poet anticipates: “Joy comes in the morning.”
We are still pre-dawn
Nevertheless we sense a new awed knowing,
a new alertness,
being woke afresh…
that land is not commodity but partner,
that soil is not insensate but alive in praise and awe,
that the chance for life is God-given and not self-secured.
Our moment is a time for honoring the soil,
for respecting the land,
for deferring to earth.
Land will speak when we listen;
It will make promises and keep them;
It will give good gifts, but in ways of its own choosing.
Land knows it is called “good,” “very good,” good indeed!
And then joy comes, perhaps a bit late, after dawn,
joy for land,
joy for all those meek who inherit the land,
joy for all those poor and indebted who depend on the land,
and yes, joy for the creator of the land.
This poem was originally published on Church Anew.