WB: Questionnaire

Every Wednesday (so long as I don’t forget), I would like to share a poem from Wendell Berry. This man has influenced me more than any other outside of my immediate friends and family, and I hope to do a more solid piece on him in the near future. For now though, I present to you one of his more troubling yet powerful poems.


1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3) What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4) In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5) State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

From Leavings, 2010.

I once read this poem in a class presentation on Wendell Berry. A friend of mine, after the first question, asked what if she chose not to eat any poison? Similar questions were hopefully asked by everybody after each question. Lately, I’ve been wondering if it’s actually possible, in this hyper-consumer economy, to live in such a way as to not do any of the things listed in this poem. I’ve been challenging myself to live in such a way.

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