"Thanks" by W.S. Merwin

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow for 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
looking up from tables 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 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

--"Thanks" by W.S. Merwin

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5 thoughts on “"Thanks" by W.S. Merwin”

  1. Thanks for the share Richard. I have this poem (along with some others) on my office wall at work and find it a constant reminder to surrender to the beautiful discipline of thankfulness. Living in London, I really identify with giving thanks in the midst of one of those tremendous cities 'growing over us'.

    One of the other poems that I have alongside this one is 'Antilamentation' by Dorianne Laux. It makes for a good companion piece I think. Dark though it is.

  2. I could be reading into this, but I'm wondering what the point of saying thank you means in this poem. Is it that we should be thankful regardless(good or bad) of our situation or whatever situation we hear about? Or, is it pointing out that "the masses" just keep saying thank you even to the horrible things pointed out in this poem. As in people say thank you it's not me going through that terrible situation, although this(whatever it may be) is costing us the health of the natural environment and /or our personal health thank you for the convenience it's provided me.

    I don't know, but either of those ways I look at it, I think it's a good poem.

  3. I think that's one of the interesting things about the poem. Something that, I think, mirrors how faith looks from the inside and from the outside. From the inside, faith is experienced as a deeply felt experience of grace, even in the darkest times. But from the outside it looks like futile, wishful thinking as the world collapses.

    And as best I can tell, there's no way to bridge that chasm of incomprehension.

  4. I think that's the beauty of poetry/art too. It could mean one of those things, it could mean both, or it could mean something completely different to the author/artist.

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