Archive for the ‘WS Merwin’ Category


These must be the colors of returning
the leaves darkened now but staying on
into the bronzed morning among the seed heads
and the dry stems and the umbers of October
the secret season that appears on its own
a recognition without sound
long after the day when I stood in its light
out on the parched barrens beside a spring
all but hidden in a tangle of eglantine
and picked the bright berries made of that summer


Recently I received a note from an “Inner Edger.” It was a kind inquiry–checking to see if I was okay; looking for a fresh post. I was both touched and inspired. I responded first by posting and then with a personal email of thanks for the concern. Below is a portion of the response to my email.

Your words and heart and path truly seemed to touch others in an important way. Why will you not post on a regular basis?  Can that be part of your posting? We all have lots going on…..but connection to others, known and unknown, is like a ripple in a pond.

I hope you will try to find to keep up your connections to the “Inner Edges.”

It’s so true. We all have lots going on. We are preoccupied in so many ways. Not long ago I looked back through my blog and was surprised by how much I had forgotten about my own life. Small moments, captured in a photo or a poem. Things that mattered, since faded and replaced by now, and now, and now. Knowing that perhaps those moments can touch another human being often fails to occur to me. So thank you, Peggy…thank you for urging me on and reminding me that we are all connected by visible and invisible bonds. I’ll do my best!

PS…to stay current, you can click the RSS feed in the URL box…


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The two Zen Masters in my life sharing a moment and some Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Snacks. My father and my grandson. Both so completely in the present. Both entirely captivated by the here and now. Each living his own koan practice.

My father posits, “When did I get here?” And, “How long will I stay?” Last week, earnestly serious, he asked, “When did I die–what year?”

Dashiell pauses to examine the lint in the corner; to turn the piano stool like he’s steering an ocean liner; to stomp in a puddle; to listen and talk with the frogs in the pond; to exclaim “fire truck” when the very faintest semblance of a siren–barely audible–sounds in the far distance.

Daily my father is loosing command of his memory. The moment is simply the moment without context. Whenever I visit him, I am barely out of the parking lot when my cell phone rings. His questions always predictable: “How are you and where are you?” And, “How come I never see you anymore?”

Dashiell is building memory; busy cataloguing and naming objects and experiences. He’ll sometimes soften his gaze…musing and say, “Pop-Pop…track-tor…” And then, because he is growing up with a dog and knows the command, “Come!” he’ll say, “Pop-Pop, COME!” as though he fully expects Pop-Pop to round the corner of the living room driving the green John Deere tractor with the yellow seat.

Sometimes I am able to tap a memory line with my father. It’s a bit like Morse Code…tap, tap, tap. No response. Tap…Tap, Tap. Tap…Tap…Tap. Ah, yes…2203 Wright Avenue, Greensboro, North Carolina. Yes, I remember! The white clapboard house perched on a small hill. The bay window and the black shutters. The brick patio and rock garden in the back. The 1948 round black Plymouth coupe in the driveway. Mr. Staley’s truck garden with tomatoes and shiny eggplants between our house and the corner. Yes, yes…I think I remember that…for now…for now.


I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me


The photo above was taken by my daughter Sara during a recent visit.

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There is a question I want to ask
and I can’t remember it
I keep trying to
I know it is the same question
it has always been
in fact I seem to know
almost everything about it
all that reminds me of it
leading to the lake shore
at daybreak or twilight
and to whatever is standing
next to the question
as a body stands next to its shadow
but the question is not a shadow
if I knew who discovered
zero I might ask
what there was before


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They know so much more now about
the heart we are told but the world
still seems to come one at a time
one day one year one season and here
it is spring once more with its birds
nesting in the holes in the walls
its morning finding the first time
its light pretending not to move
always beginning as it goes

– W. S. MERWIN –

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When I think of the patience I have had
back in the dark before I remember
or knew it was night until the light came
all at once at the speed it was born to
with all the time in the world to fly through
not concerned about ever arriving
and then the gathering of the first stars
unhurried in their flowering spaces
and far into the story the planets
cooling slowly and the ages of rain
then the seas starting to bear memory
the gaze of the first cell at its waking
how did this haste begin this little time
at any time this reading by lightning
scarcely a word this nothing this heaven


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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 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


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“I think there’s a kind of desperate hope built into poetry. … One is trying to say everything that can be said for the things that one loves while there’s still time.”

W.S. Merwin’s 80th birthday was on Sunday, September 30. I’ve been reading his memoir, Unframed Originals in addition to lots of his poetry. It’s sparse, poignant, humorous in a Russell Edson kind of way–a study of the fatherline…a silent stoic lineage…the mystery of distant relatives and a child’s wonder as he cobbles together an understanding of his people.

I appreciate his capacity to capture the bare bones of life and the essence of familial relationships…his poem, “Yesterday” really strikes a chord…



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


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