Postscript to “The Landscaping of Hell: Strip-Mine Morality in East Kentucky” from The Long-Legged House
[S]tanding there in the very presence of it, one feels one’s comprehension falling short of the magnitude of its immorality. One is surrounded by death and ugliness and silence as of the end of the world. After my first trip to this place I think I was most impressed by the extent of the destruction, and its speed; what most impresses me now is its permanence…. Standing and looking down on that mangled land, one feels aching in one’s bones the sense that it will be in a place such as this — a place of titanic disorder and violence, which the rhetoric of political fantasy has obstructed from official eyesight — that the balance will finally be overcast and the world tilted irrevocably toward its death…. Since I left Hardburly I have been unable to escape the sense that I have been to the top of the mountain, and that I have looked over and seen, not the promised land vouchsafed to a chosen people, but a land of violence and sterility prepared and set aside for the damned.
© Wendell Berry. This poem is excerpted from “The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry” and is reprinted with permission of the author and Counterpoint Press.