There’s a poem at the front of a book I’m supposed to be reading. I’ve read a goodly chunk of the book itself and although it’s well written and obviously honest, the poetry makes the rest seem tawdry and glib. I could cut and paste it from the net, but this writer seems to have edited his work quite a few different ways and there are several versions. So, because I love you, I am typing the whole damn thing out for you, my Chitterlings, and I’ve picked the version I like the most.
Don’t blame me for the lack of punctuation, he didn’t believe in it, so this is exactly as he wrote it, and it makes my skin prickle and my eyes water:
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge 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 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
in a culture up to its chin in shame we are saying thank you
living in the stench we have chosen we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the back door
and the beatings on the 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
I don’t know if Merwin was Christian, indeed he seems to have had a late interest in Buddhism, but his father was a Presbyterian minister and Merwin loved hearing him reading psalms and the Bible, and certainly he acknowledged the Bible as an influence on his writing. I find this piece spiritual, vibrant, luminous. I’m not well read so I hadn’t heard of this much respected Pulitzer winner and star of the poetry world in the 20th century.
All I know is that this poem, ‘thank you’ is how I now want to live in the shadow of my God, giving thanks and rejoicing always. ALWAYS.
I’m grateful to W.S.Merwin. His words have made me calm tonight, as I head off to bed, knowing that even if sleep again takes me to the memories I dread, in all of this, even in all of this, I am saying thank you. It’s too easy to tumble down into our own dark pit of misery, and Mr Merwin has caught hold of my sleeve, and pulled me back.
This is a hard hard season in our small community. We have young people desperately ill and old people fading, friends dying, many struggling, physically and mentally.
Tonight my prayer is going to be one of thanks, in all of this. In all of this, thank you.