“Thanks” by W.S. Merwin (repost)

     To the helpers and to the life-savers … thank you, dark though it is, christy

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

“Thanks” by W.S. Merwin, from Migration: New & Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press.

* originally shared 9/4/17

7 thoughts on ““Thanks” by W.S. Merwin (repost)

  1. That is one of my favorites. You couldn’t have chosen a better time to repost that poem. I was up until the wee hours of the morning crying over the phone with my sister. Her husband died last night of complications from pneumonia.


  2. strumsky

    Thank you for this, Christy. Timely in so many ways. I have been missing our great poet, lately, a great deal — guiding beacon that he was, over decades, knowing something new might be forthcoming kept me going many a year… He died just about exactly a year ago now.
    Apropos this, and just about everything else:
    (From the Poetry Foundation website) Merwin was once asked what social role a poet plays—if any—in our society. He commented: “I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry now that one really wants, hopelessly, to save the world. One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time. I think that’s a social role, don’t you? … We keep expressing our anger and our love, and we hope, hopelessly perhaps, that it will have some effect.”

    For the Anniversary of My Death
    Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
    When the last fires will wave to me
    And the silence will set out
    Tireless traveler
    Like the beam of a lightless star

    Then I will no longer
    Find myself in life as in a strange garment
    Surprised at the earth
    And the love of one woman
    And the shamelessness of men
    As today writing after three days of rain
    Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
    And bowing not knowing to what

    W. S. Merwin, “For the Anniversary of My Death” from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.
    Source: The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1993)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I sadly remember the news of his passing. Copper Canyon had just released an anthology that I helped publish (along with many many others through financial donation). I donated in memory of my aunt who introduced me to poetry as a child via Shel Silverstein.

      Perhaps Merwin and Silverstein are up there gazing upon the green green fields where the sidewalks end, discussing poetry and planted trees and lights in the attics, maybe even boys named Sue (maybe Johnny Cash is sitting with them! Oh to be a fly on That wall.)

      Always a joy to hear from you.
      Love the poem. A favorite. Can’t believe I hadn’t shared it. I will.

      Be well, friend, and stay healthy.


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