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  • Writer's pictureandrew jeter

After All

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

(from the NaPoWriMo prompt: to peruse the work of one or more of these twitter bots, and use a line or two, or a phrase or even a word that stands out to you, as the seed for your own poem.)[The twitter bots (I added the hyperlink because I had to look it up.) in question randomly generate first lines of poems for you. I just went to my bookcase as that seemed the more reasonable course of action for me as I am not really sure how to read Twitter. The poem I chose was one of my favorites by Wendell Berry and I have posted it below.)

Out of pity,


a colleague

asked me, “How

do you deal with all

that time in the chemo


Her question assumed


a lack of things to say—

like the moment

when no one can think

of anything to say at a dinner

party or the pause

in the doctor’s office

right after he has given the

diagnosis or those

three minutes before my first

period class begins

in the morning

when no one

is really awake,


at me glass-eyed,

and I silently sip

my coffee

out of a scratched blue

thermal mug

I bought for my mother

so she could take

her coffee to her

early morning

chemo sessions.

She used it mostly

to warm her hands

and I would drink

the coffee after she

had fallen to sleep

as clear, silent

necrosis dripped into

her port.

It was very quiet

after all.

Berry has been one of my favorite poets for a long time and this poem, in particular, is one that I reread frequently. (Which I recognize was not necessarily in "the spirit" of the prompt.) When you're trying to do a thing that is hard to define, you need all the help they can get... The last two lines (in orange) were my inspiration for this poem. (And yes, for the record, I think what Berry is asking here is quite difficult. Poems, after all, disrupt.

How to Be a Poet

by Wendell Berry

(to remind myself) i    Make a place to sit down.    Sit down. Be quiet.    You must depend upon    affection, reading, knowledge,    skill—more of each    than you have—inspiration,    work, growing older, patience,    for patience joins time    to eternity. Any readers    who like your poems,    doubt their judgment.

ii    Breathe with unconditional breath    the unconditioned air.    Shun electric wire.    Communicate slowly. Live    a three-dimensioned life;    stay away from screens.    Stay away from anything    that obscures the place it is in.    There are no unsacred places;    there are only sacred places    and desecrated places.    iii    Accept what comes from silence.    Make the best you can of it.    Of the little words that come    out of the silence, like prayers    prayed back to the one who prays,    make a poem that does not disturb    the silence from which it came.

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