Saturday, November 15, 2014

W.S. Merwin: The Thanksgiving Poem Made New

Bill Merwin described by the NYT as "fabulously handsome" 
I'd say fabulous poet is just as apt. Once upon a time in a life faraway,  I crashed a party held in honor of Merwin's visit to Harvard. My friend needed to meet him; he was her poet god. I went along for moral support. His generosity and kindness to us --- we were clearly not "the" guests who could woo him in any way except for our love for his work. And then: my friend's awkward declaration of love for the poems was met with a pause, a long smile, and a "thank you; that makes me feel useful." Thank you, Mr. Merwin for a lifetime model of how a poet can write and how a poet can live in this world.


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

W. S. Merwin from his collection Migrations: New and Selected Poems, 
Copper Canyon Press, 2005

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