The trouble was not excellence.
I carried that secret
like a laugh up my sleeve
all the public years
all the lonely years
(one and the same) --
years that battered like a wind tunnel
like a yawn at an auction
(all the same)

Courage was not the fault --
years they carried me shoulder high
years they ate me like a hero
(one and the same) --
the fault was -- dearth
of courage, of excellence --
the bread only so so
the beer near beer

I keep the secret under my shirt
like a fox's lively tooth, called
self knowledge.
That way
the fox eats me
before I rot.
That way I keep true measure --
neither Pascal's weak kneed emanation
'naked, appalled
under the infinite starry spaces'
nor a stumblebum
in Alice's doll house.

Never the less! summon
courage, excellence.
The two, I reflect, could
snatch us from ruin.
A fairly modest urging --
Don't kill for whatever pretext.
Leave the world unbefouled.
Don't hoard. Stand somewhere.

Well. Up to this hour
(don't tell a soul)
here I am

Daniel Berrigan, S.J., was a Sojourners contributing editor, priest, poet, and peace activist when this poem appeared.

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