celebrate the poet


    I have been in poetry mode all this week, so it seems only fitting that I should discover, here in the dregs of this day, that today is W. S. Merwin’s birthday. In honor of his celebrating another year on the planet, I offer two or three of his poems. The first two I found reading the transcript of an interview with Bill Moyers.

    Rain Light

    All day the stars watch from long ago
    my mother said I am going now
    when you are alone you will be all right
    whether or not you know you will know
    look at the old house in the dawn rain
    all the flowers are forms of water
    the sun reminds them through a white cloud
    touches the patchwork spread on the hill
    the washed colors of the afterlife
    that lived there long before you were born
    see how they wake without a question
    even though the whole world is burning

    I know he packs his poems with so much that it is perhaps a bit unfair to line them up one after the other, but you can come back and read them again.


    My friend says I was not a good son
    you understand
    I say yes I understand

    he says I did not go
    to see my parents very often you know
    and I say yes I know

    even when I was living in the same city he says
    maybe I would go there once
    a month or maybe even less
    I say oh yes

    he says the last time I went to see my father
    I say the last time I saw my father

    he says the last time I saw my father
    he was asking me about my life
    how I was making out and he
    went into the next room
    to get something to give me

    oh I say
    feeling again the cold
    of my father’s hand the last time

    he says and my father turned
    in the doorway and saw me
    look at my wristwatch and he
    said you know I would like you to stay
    and talk with me

    oh yes I say

    but if you are busy he said
    I don’t want you to feel that you
    have to
    just because I’m here

    I say nothing

    he says my father
    said maybe
    you have important work you are doing
    or maybe you should be seeing
    somebody I don’t want to keep you

    I look out the window
    my friend is older than I am
    he says and I told my father it was so
    and I got up and left him then
    you know

    though there was nowhere I had to go
    and nothing I had to do

    The last poem I offer as my part in celebrating this wonderful poet is one I have posted before but keep coming back to myself.


    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
    Tonight, I am saying thank you.

    Happy birthday, Mr. Merwin, and thank you.



    1. Sharing “Yesterday” gave me the nudge to spend the afternoon with my parents instead of going into the office on my day off, and I didn’t wear a watch.

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