Search This Blog

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Number 162: W.S. Merwin "Thanks"


with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for 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 looking out
in different 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
looking up from tables we are saying thank you
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen 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 back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged 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 like the earth
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

Hap Notes: I thought this poem would be good for the "rapture" day, a religious day predicted by some guy who can read neither Hebrew, nor Aramaic, nor Greek, nor Latin and yet professes to "interpret" the Bible. I think we are all weary of people who think they know the mind of God. What we DO know from every religion and almost every philosopher and poet over the last three thousand years is that we should be kind and decent to each other. Apparently we think this is just a suggestion and not an imperative. Maybe we need a little time for it to sink in, say, another couple thousand years (if we last that long.)

Merwin has a lot of stuff going on in this, perhaps his most well-known, poem. There is the surface of the constant way we use the words "thank-you" with no grace. There is the way it's an almost automatic response, a protocol nicety like saying hello. And then there is the deeper thought that regardless of the circumstances, life with all its troubles and shames is still something for which to give thanks.

I actually experienced the rapture today. Two children, apropos of nothing, walked up to me in the grocery store and hugged me. The meanest, loudest dog in the neighborhood trotted up to me happily and let me pet him. I saw two richly red cardinals on the black roof of my neighbor's house. The guy who checked out my groceries said I had beautiful eyes. I had just enough money for groceries. The coffee I made this morning tasted wonderful. My favorite jeans fit a bit looser. I found a huge, black, strange looking beetle in the kitchen and I picked him up to move him and he calmly hugged my thumb until I laid him on the grass outside.

All this happened in about an hour. That's what they mean by the rapture, isn't it? That life has its beauty every minute and loving things happen randomly and we should pass that on? The universe loves us all. It doesn't need you to believe that for it to be true, but it might help if you did.

So I am saying thank you.

Here's where we talked about Merwin before:

1 comment:

  1. wow.. that is beautiful.. Sadhu Sadhu (well spoken).