We are saying thank you

I just found this poem for the first time the other day.  I like it because it is not an easy poem, it is an invitation to that fully human journey of holding both blessing and curse.  Offering gratitude when life is going well is fairly simple.  Giving thanks in the midst of uncertainty, sorrow, or suffering is another story entirely.

Thanksgiving Blessings!  

Listen
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridge 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 looking out
in different 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
in a culture up to its chin in shame
living in the stench it has chosen 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 back door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you

in the banks that use us we are saying thank you
with the crooks in office with the rich and fashionable
unchanged we go on saying thank you thank 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 like the earth
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.

-W. S. Merwin from Rain in the Trees

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10 Responses

  1. Thank you for this difficult beautiful poem. I, too, know this place. One year, when I was very sick and not knowing which way the journey would go, I still each day looked for five things for which to be grateful. It was so hard sometimes to be real, to be truthful, not to escape into mouthing platitudes. But I say now, and truly believe, that sometimes it was the light coming through the deep blue of the stained glass hanging in my window that kept me alive.

  2. i thought i posted here yesterday, but it must have disappeared in to cyberspace. aarrghhh! bottom line —wonderful poem! it met me right where i was!!

  3. Hi Christine. Eveline, at Stonesthrow Cottage (an Artella blog) mentioned getting one of your reflective art journals and I realized I hadn’t updated my email address with you. (I’ve taken care of it now) So I thought I’d drop in and say hi. You sent a book of prayers from around the world to me once and I’ve often meant to tell you that I actually read from it at my wedding in July. Thank you!

  4. I do think those who have never allowed themselves to experience real sorrow can ever understand the full complexity of being human. I love this poem too because it is not the least bit trite about being grateful, which so much advice in the midst of suffering can be.

  5. Christine,

    I have always loved this poem and read I to my retreat co-facilitator a while back. She just shook her head. I am glad to find that someone else appreciates the reality of the dark and the light.

    I read it to Jud last night and we have now added it to his poem list. He, too, found it very beautiful.

    I wonder if, like you, Yolanda, it appeals to those of us who have experienced this place. I find it very sacred.

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