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Thanks by W.S. Merwin

Dear Professor,

Where to begin? The class has ended, and my heart is so full.

When we talk about Niedecker’s trade of choice, or of Williams dancing alone in his room, or of Stein showing us how language is incapable of articulating grief, or of Creeley asking what can we do against the darkness, or of Ashbery and the idea of not-knowing—I feel like we are talking about my life. I suppose I’m not the only one.

I guess what I’m trying to say is: Thank you.

I am feeling like my self again. I am reminded of this poem, which I always bring out and read, in exchange of a prayer. I think about the insistence of gratitude, despite the despair and darkness that surrounds us sometimes:

W.S. Merwin

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

Everything I learned was worth everything I have suffered earlier this year, if it meant arriving at this point, arriving Here.


Comments (7)

  • Feeling this poem today…

  • I was just thinking today of the two words I would use to describe the experience of this course, and do you know what they were?

    Thank you.

    Now I come here (Here!) to read your beautiful thoughts, accompanied by this beautiful poem of thanks.

    Thank you, T.

  • This gives me chills. And it makes me want to retract what I said last night about not actually knowing whether I want to be a teacher. Maybe I do want to be a teacher, if only to even attempt to facilitate someone else feeling this way.

    Thank you.

  • P.S. I would love to hear how Stein shows the limitations of language in the face of grief. It reminds me of how Shakespeare only gives King Lear one word to express the grief of losing Cordelia: “Howl, howl, howl, howl!”

  • Lizz

    Oh, T-

    I don’t know how you always manage to steel my words and my breath with the same posting, but you do. And you do it well. Thank you. You. For being open enough, vulnerable enough, crazy enough, whatever enough to share your thoughts with us. Though they are dark at times, and so lost at others, they reach us. Because, were we all not dark and lost at once too? We were. Sometimes, we are still. But, this–well it makes being lost worth the pain and confusion. Best wishes, as always…

  • My mother passed away a week ago today and we are still gathering ourselves back together after all the travel, decisions, and time zone changes. I felt I was ready for her to go but find myself struggling to keep my balance from a deep undertow that pulls at me. She formed so much of who I am – the many things I learned from her as well as the emotional and physical abuse that has taken decades to unwind. And still, I am grateful – and say thank you – for what she could do despite her own upbringing and the deep sexism she was so bound in, determined always to do the right thing and to make the world a better place.


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