“Burning the Old Year” by Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,
lists of vegetables, partial poems.
Orange swirling flame of days,
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,
only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye


“I begin again with the smallest numbers…” 

Happy New Year everyone. May your crackles be few, and your losses fewer.

We sadly lost an unborn calf today, and yet, just on Christmas Eve, another cow miraculously welcomed happy and healthy twins. Such is the cycle of life . . . and of death. I am slowly learning to accept both.

Thank you for being here with me. Love, Christy

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 nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

~ “Thanks” by W.S. Merwin

“Place” by W. S. Merwin

On the last day of the world
I would want to plant a tree

what for
not the fruit

the tree that bears the fruit
is not the one that was planted

I want the tree that stands
in the earth for the first time

with the sun already
going down

and the water
touching its roots

in the earth full of the dead
and the clouds passing

one by one
over its leaves

–W. S. Merwin, from his book, The Rain in the Trees

“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

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

* Thank you to everyone who has helped those affected by Hurricane Harvey. If you would like to help, I shared several links at the bottom of our last post, “Hurricane” by Mary Oliver.

“Untold” by W.S. Merwin

The taste of falling is something we
ignore but that we never forget
we do not know how many animals
we share it with or what creatures
at every moment die away from it
without ever saying a word about it
they are gone they are gone but we go on
breathing it breathing it but without
ever knowing it without ever saying it
this very moment it has come and gone
without ever having had a name
how can we address it as long as we live
why would we want to as long as we live
besides all the nothings we say
between shining and laughing
sometimes we even forget silence
but silence forgets us at every breath

— W.S. Merwin, from his newest book Garden Time (Copper Canyon Press, 2016).  Copyright © 2016 by W. S. Merwin.

“Inheritance” by W. S. Merwin

At my elbow on the table
it lies open as it has done
for a good part of these thirty
years ever since my father died
and it passed into my hands
this Webster’s New International
Dictionary of the English
Language
of 1922
on India paper which I
was always forbidden to touch
for fear I would tear or somehow
damage its delicate pages
heavy in their binding
this color of wet sand
on which thin waves hover
when it was printed he was twenty-six
they had not been married four years
he was a country preacher
in a one-store town and I suppose
a man came to the door one day
peddling this new dictionary
on fine paper like the Bible
at an unrepeatable price
and it seemed it would represent
a distinction just to own it
confirming something about him
that he could not even name
now its cover is worn as though
it had been carried on journeys
across the mountains and deserts
of the earth but it has been here
beside me the whole time
what has frayed it like that
loosening it gnawing at it
all through these years
I know I must have used it
much more than he did but always
with care and indeed affection
turning the pages patiently
in search of meanings

“Inheritance” by W. S. Merwin, from The Shadow of Sirius. © Copper Canyon Press, 2008.