Thanks

(...coming back to my words, through the words of others...)

(...I am still saying thanks, still he is giving, gone one year ago...)


Thanks
by W. S. Merwin


Listen 
with the night falling we are saying thank you 
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings 
we are running out of the glass rooms 
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky 
and say thank you 
we are standing by the water thanking it 
smiling by the windows looking out 
in our directions 

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging 
after funerals we are saying thank you 
after the news of the dead 
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you 
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators 
remembering wars and the police at the door 
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you 
in the banks we are saying thank you 
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us 
our lost feelings we are saying thank you 
with the forests falling faster than the minutes 
of our lives we are saying thank you 
with the words going out like cells of a brain 
with the cities growing over us 
we are saying thank you faster and faster 
with nobody listening we are saying thank you 
we are saying thank you and waving 
dark though it is


Berryman
By W. S. Merwin


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war
 
don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity
 
just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice
 
he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally
 
it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop
 
he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England
 
as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry
 
he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention
 
I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't
 
you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write



(Two of my favorite poems by my favorite poet, on the 
anniversary of his death.)
(Difficult if not impossible to pick favorites, really, 
but these two seem timely.)

(With many thanks to Whimsy Mimsy 
for the connections, for the muddled thoughts...)

(...let us stay deep in tides of our own...)
(...until the words come drifting by...)





3 thoughts on “Thanks

  1. I like Merwin…not just for the poetry, but for his Hawaiian life of palms and zen and words. Thank you for honoring him. ‘Thanks’ is powerful, and so timely. It immediately brings to mind the Tibetan practice of 100,000 full prostrations. When I was living at the Zen Community of NY we did a (much shorter!) bowing practice involving thanking everyone, making sure to include those we were angry with, disappointed in, etc. Such a good practice. Berryman’s admonishment is good, too. Well. Merwin had a long, full life. We should just breathe in his honor, every March 15th. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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