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Thanks for the light and the dark


THANKS” is a poem for this season and for these times.

My friend Anne shared it with me recently, introducing me to the  work of the prolific 88 year old poet William Merwin, social activist, Buddhist, and deep ecology practitioner. With his body frail and weakened, and his dear wife dying, he’s restoring his home in Hawaii, an old pineapple plantation, to its rainforest state.

But more than just a poem, Thanks is an opening into an exploration of where to give thanks in a world fraught with suffering.

I invite you to read it — and then, in your own way, continue it.

Words of thanks multiply as they are created and shared.

The Poetry Foundation writes this about Merwin:

“Merwin was once asked what social role a poet plays—if any—in America. 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. But I certainly have moved beyond the despair, or the searing, dumb vision that I felt after writing [his book] The Lice; one can’t live only in despair and anger without eventually destroying the thing one is angry in defense of. The world is still here, and there are aspects of human life that are not purely destructive, and there is a need to pay attention to the things around us while they are still around us. And you know, in a way, if you don’t pay that attention, the anger is just bitterness.‘”

So I invite you to read this, and then consider, what is the verse you might add…

By W.S. Merwin

With the night falling we are saying thank you
We are stopping on the 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 no one listening we are saying thank you
We are saying thank you and waving
Dark though it is

What are you thankful for, in the light and dark places…

Here’s my start:

In the aftermath of Paris
With cold rains sleeting down on us
Filling reservoirs that almost emptied last summer
I say thank you to the woman
Who bore me
Built her muscles carrying me
Waits to be lifted from her chair
Thank you
For the candles that have been lit
The rooms that remain darkened
And where we can still choose

and one more verse:

For all those who have read my words
And those that intended to, or once did
Or may at some point in the future
Leave a comment, or just smile
Or think for a moment
I say thank you

Now it’s your turn to write  – I’d love to read – and happy Thanksgiving to you.

3 Responses

  1. n the aftermath of Paris
    With cold rains sleeting down on us
    Filling reservoirs that almost emptied last summer
    I say thank you to the woman
    Who bore me
    Built her muscles carrying me
    Waits to be lifted from her chair
    Thank you
    For the candles that have been lit
    The rooms that remain darkened
    And where we can still choose
    and one more verse:

    What if there is no difference between the light and the dark?
    What if it Is only in our confused mind?
    What if Thank You
    Is all there is
    Or needs to be

    Thank You
    Thank You

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