Poem-a-Day Friday: W.S. Merwin


This week I started Lauren F. Winner’s Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. I love Lauren Winner. Girl Meets God was one of the first books that gave me hope that I could write about Jesus and actually be a good writer at the same time. Every time I see her name on an article in Books and Culture, I open to it first. She’s my girl.

That’s why it’s taken me far too long to get my hands on her new book (which was released in January). I finally got my act together and it arrived in the mail this week. Every slow moment since I’ve been giddily sneaking peaks at its pages.

I’ve never read much of W.S. Merwin’s poetry and I don’t know why. I guess I’ve just never yet made my way to his work. But in one of her first chapters, Winner quotes this poem and it gives me goose bumps and is just the poem about gratefulness that I’ve been seeking out for a long time. So, on my next library trip, I’m snatching some Merwin. And today, I’m giving you this little taste of grateful:



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

-W.S. Merwin


Oh. My. That poem. I can’t read it enough. It needs to be framed in every room and framed in my brain. And I want to say it all day long so I don’t forget that sometimes saying thank you is the gift.


W.S. Merwin, “Thanks,” in Merwin,  Migration: New and Selected Poems (Port Townsend, WA: Copper Canyon Press, 2005), 280.

  • http://howtotalkevangelical.addiezierman.com Addie Zierman


  • http://www.sundayschoolrebel.typepad.com Sam

    I so love Lauren Winner, too. Her voice is that of a friend (a very smart friend). I first found this poem of W.S. Merwin’s when I read Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. That book was and is so important to me, and it gave me a love for Merwin as well.

  • http://sarahdunningpark.com Sarah Dunning Park

    Yes. Love this poem, and loved “Still.” Perfect.

  • http://katieleigh.wordpress.com Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams

    I love Lauren Winner too – and like Sam above, I discovered this poem via Anne Lamott and was thrilled to see it in Still. One of my very favorites.

  • http://throughaglass.net Kari

    Oh my word. I posted this poem back at the beginning of April and I kept asking my husband, “Why do I know this poem? Was it on TV? Was it in a movie?” Lauren Winner’s book! You solved the mystery for me. Bless you.

  • dfadfss

    You missed the whole point of the poem. It is a total irony: We still say thank you and pray to a GOD even though everything around us is getting destroyed. People are hypocrites, they do what they want with this planet and with their lives and then thank the holy for helping them, that’s the meaning of the poem.

    • michaboyett

      Maybe so. I hear you and I see the irony. The truth? I’m tired of irony. I want to be grateful even if it makes me silly or ignorant. I see the mess we’ve made of the earth. But also there is beauty. So I read it as that possibility: That I might just be the crazy hypocrite saying Thank You to “nobody listening.” But I’d rather be crazy than hopeless. So I keep choosing it. Thanks for the comment.