W.S. Merwin’s Lines of Gratitude

This morning we opened our Collected Poems of W.S. Merwin to Variation on a Theme: a poem of Merwin counting blessings and expressing gratitude… As we find ourselves doing as we read it, looking around at “sights and moments known only to me”…

Thank you my lifelong afternoon

late in this season of no age

thank you for my windows above the rivers

thank you for the true love you brought me to

when it was time at last and for words

that come out of silence and take me by surprise

and have carried me through the clear day

without once turning to look at me

thank you for friends and long echoes of them

and for those mistakes that were only mine

for the homesickness that guides the young plovers

from somewhere they loved before

they woke into it to another place

they loved before they ever saw it

thank you whole body and hand and eye

thank you for sights and moments known

only to me who will not see them again

except in my mindʻs eye where they have not changed

thank you for showing me the morning stars

and for the dogs who are guiding me

 

We especially love

Thank you…for those mistakes that were only mine

 

………

Addendum. After we published this morning, we found this in Robin Wall Kimmerer’s sublime Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants:

We are showered every day with gifts, but they are not meant for us to keep. Their life is in their movement, the inhale and exhale of our shared breath. Our work and our joy is to pass along the gift and to trust that what we put out into the universe will always come back.

 

We found the poem online at the Merwin Conservancy. There, it was accompanied by Frank Starmer’s image of Morning Stars (above) which is perfect.  They found it at Flickr; it is used under Creative Commons License CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.   The poem was originally published in — The Moon Before Morning. Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

2 Responses to W.S. Merwin’s Lines of Gratitude

  1. Anthony Giglio 07.08.2019 at 12:58pm #

    Sally — Forgive the naiveté of a city boy who knows nothing of plovers, but when I read this I thought that plovers was, perhaps, a typo for lovers, and I continued reading ahead thinking it had to be. Then, even after I googled plover (who knew?!), I still think that lovers fits nicely here, too:

    for the homesickness that guides the young LOVERS

    from somewhere they loved before

    they woke into it to another place

    they loved before they ever saw it

  2. Sally Schneider 07.08.2019 at 3:04pm #

    Wow, Anthony. So glad you knew nothing of plovers and factored in my propensity for typos. Even more beautiful, perhaps!

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