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

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

by W. S. Merwin

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

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...)

Form (Less)


How do we dress...

...these forms... 

...that we find in the night?

Are they so ancient within us... 

...that they disappear... 

...into that with which we clothe them?

Do they hide behind... 

...what we put upon them?

Are they only there... long as we look... 

...or as deeply as we see?

Or do we peer into a dark... 

...and empty... 



“If you do something in the spirit of non-achievement, there is a good quality in it. So just to do something without any particular effort is enough.”
Shunryu Suzuki

To make something of these times I 
must make something so I will find 
a frame in which to nail my thoughts. 
I cannot beat this lone silence

and I cannot take this seedless 
greening anymore, this yearning 
growth that knows only down and in,
only dragging my thoughts into 

the night where I cannot find them 
though I remember having them, 
remember how they felt if not 
how they looked, remember them close 

and warm, and thought them somehow grand 
or at least telling at the time 
I barely had them, but now? Now 
I barely have them even less. 

Now I am not sure if I have
them or if they have me. Now they 
are lost in their own depths, swimming 
silently in the rolling black 

medium of their making. Now 
they haunt me in their bare being
and unmake me and swim through me
and I will make nothing of them.

Songs of Fictive Moments: As you left

I did not listen to your leaving
as you left. I did not hear 

the floorboards creaking, the scrape 
of your fingernails on the wall

down the hall, the click-click
of them on the doorknob, the 

catch-cracking of the latch opening 
or the scream of the hinge of the door. 

No, I did not hear them at all.
I stayed where I was in my chair

with my thoughts and my drink
and my stare but I did hear you stop.

I heard your breath catch in your throat.
I heard the hesitation in your step,

your two desires pulling you apart, 
pulling you to pieces right there 

on the threshold, right there in the hall.
I heard the split in you. All these things 

I heard as you stood there, the house 
ticking around you, the floor 

stretching away down the hall.
I heard your cheek almost touch 

your shoulder, your chin almost 
touch your collar bone and then 

I heard your head whip back to 
front, the snap of the earth back 

into place. The slam of the door
I did not hear, and again

the silence as I sat. I 
was firm in the fabric  

of the seat of the chair.
I was sewn there.

My skin tore 
as I tried to rise.

So I didn’t.
So I let you.

(The third piece in a series of unrelated pieces that are somehow, in my mind, related)

Drive, a haiku sonnet

There is a robin 
singing in a tree somewhere,
telling the world he

is looking for a 
mate. A robin sings in a 
tree somewhere, telling 

the world he has found 
a mate. The tree somewhere is 
a tulip in the 

neighbor's front yard. Spring 
has come. We drive by the same 
people, sleeping in

bags on the sidewalk, waiting 
for the world to warm.

(Been a little minute since I wrote one of these...)

A beautiful boat

That's what we had, maybe. 
One day before our faces.
Now, this is where we are.
Trying on well-fitting boots.

We bought them.  The book.
The line.  The sinking thoughts.  
Them too, we bought.  “Fuck the 
farm, we bought the boat!” 

The oars and the ocean too. 
And then we threw them all 
in.  Chopped the little ones 
for our chum and threw them

in too. I can see them now, 
our pieces, moving up from 
the dark like bright fish. Our 
beautiful boat is eating us.

This poem first appeared on my friend Jeremy Nathan Marks' project, 
Poetry of the Resistance.