Art Bar

Jul 19, 2006 at 12:00 am

Here is a marvelous little poem about a long marriage by the Kentucky poet, Wendell Berry. It's about a couple resigned to and comfortable with their routines. It is written in language as clear and simple as its subject. As close together as these two people have grown, as much alike as they have become, there is always the chance of the one, unpredictable, small moment of independence. Who will be the first to say goodnight?

They Sit Together on the Porch

They sit together on the porch, the dark Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.

Their supper done with, they have washed and dried The dishes — only two plates now, two glasses, Two knives, two forks, two spoons — small work for two.

She sits with her hands folded in her lap,

At rest. He smokes his pipe.

They do not speak,

And when they speak at last it is to say

What each one knows the other knows.

They have

One mind between them, now, that finally For all its knowing will not exactly know Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding

Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.


From A Timbered Choir, by Wendell Berry. Copyright 1998. Published and reprinted by arrangement with Counterpoint Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group ( All rights reserved. This weekly column is supported by the Poetry Foundation, the Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

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