Tuesday poem – Thanks

THANKS by 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

What an extraordinary poem this is: it starts off filled with skip and bounce, and by the end has transformed into a Stevie Smith-style ‘drowning not waving’ howl. I don’t know Merwin’s work at all well, but I made a mental note to find out more when I read that he’d been appointed as the current American Poet Laureate. And I’m glad that I did.

2 Responses to “Tuesday poem – Thanks”

  1. mary mccallum Says:

    It’s quite extraordinary – such a spill of words, but look closely and it’s so well crafted … I love that from the start we are told to ‘Listen’ to those two over-used words repeated in the face of so much we should not be thanking … I am interested in languages that don’t use ‘thank you’ much – like the Greeks, the Maori…

  2. admin Says:

    I guess that societies with strong social bonds don’t need to say please and thank you as much as we do? In the context of this poem, ‘thanks’ has the status of inappropriate uses of ‘sorry’, doesn’t it?
    Nevertheless, Mary, thanks for your comment!

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