Live Virtual Group Session: 1pm EDT May 31st 2020

47 participants joined us from NY, PA, IA, IN, NJ, IL, CA, MN, Italy, Canada, and India. After three readings (two aloud, one silent), the group discussed the many ways into and through the unpunctuated poem “Thanks,” by W.S. Merwin, posted below. The poem begins with a one-word first line: “Listen” that evoked an immediate narrator-to-reader call to action–a command emphasizing what may be said, healed, whatever makes you you.

Participants brought layered interpretations to the text, referencing a Jewish prayer, Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl,” and an expression of love, utility and futility (with no one listening at the end of the poem, does it negate all the “Thank you’s?”). With its tone and tensions, the poem served as a reminder that we as individual readers often see a text through a subjective lens and interpret it via our lived experiences. Questions we were left with included “Are we hopelessly praying? Are we blind and rotely saying thank you?”

The prompt ““Write about what you go on saying” generated creative responses ranging from the declarative (“I am just, … I am chaos, … still I am”) to the interrogative (“What am I? Can I be still?” and “What you go on saying? How? Tell me how? How do I better this place?”).

Beyond identifying questions, participants asked, “Must I listen to them?” and used imagery of four ionic societal pillars while exploring themes of race, gender, lack of listening, and blind spots.

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured.

Please join us for our next session Monday, June 1st at 6pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

by W.S. Merwin

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
standing 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

From Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005).
Copyright © 1988 by W. S. Merwin.

11 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 1pm EDT May 31st 2020

  1. Listen to me, please, otherwise I can’t tell if I’m saying anything, if there is any weight to my shape or shadow to my self. I don’t know what it takes to make a sound. I’m tempted to be infamous and make you hate me, destroy your vision with fire and noise, but that would defeat somehow a purpose I have, to want to be heard and loved, to be given the benefit of the doubt. What does that even mean? that the doubt is kinder than your certainty that I have nothing worthwhile to say and shouldn’t even have entered the room.
    I dream too of words on pages floating in water, the ink running and the flakes of paper dissolving. You would stir the water with your hands, murmuring, “It’s better to be hated than ignored.”

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Patricia D

    I go on saying “This too will pass.” knowing the truth of impermanence. I go on saying this phrase with hope and acceptance despite not knowing what will replace “this.” I recall hard times in my youth when a kind soul first said, “This too will pass.” to me. I never forgot the words nor the person who spoke them. Now, I am a kind person who goes on saying this phrase to others with the intention to sooth their pain and quell their fears.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. What you go on saying .

    Sorry ,sorry like an easy word .
    Sorry as if you’re already forgiven .
    Saying the word many times a day,
    Even it isn’t your fault .
    A habit , the only one you’ve managed to keep .
    Then when you do something wrong ,
    It’s hard to admit it .
    The word sorry is insufficient .
    You whisper it ,
    But did you mean it ?
    Did you take action to change the outcome ?
    Did you take time to evaluate yourself ?
    Sorry is not enough .

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Carmen

    I go on saying I’m sorry, excuse me, I don’t mean to take up space – outwardly – inwardly I want the attention, not for vanities sake but my survival depends on me being seen – I go on saying I’ll be alright don’t worry about me, I can take care of myself – these mixed messages will be my undoing – what I can commit to go on saying is that I am here in all confusion, need and hope – Here am I

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Dinah Ryan

    I go on saying “there is no grief without love.” I go on saying this to my students who are weeping the day after the election because it feels to them as if a cloud of evil has descended on their lives. I go on saying it when they weep over children in cages and African American men killed by white policemen. I go on saying it when they ask me why people filled with hatred incite deeper violence and division. I go on saying it even when I am also weeping. I go on saying it when they tell me they don’t know what to do with what they are feeling. “There is no grief without love,” I keep saying. If you did not love, you would not grieve. So go on grieving, I keep saying.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I go on saying
    there must be gray,
    somewhere, even if
    I can’t see it because
    I go on saying that things could never
    be black and white even though
    all I can see is a white knee, the largest
    concrete bridge inside a human body,
    pushing and pining down on
    a soft neck covered in black skin.
    I go on saying there must a gray
    area because life is complex
    though my human eyes are
    limited. I can’t see what
    I know in my heart.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. What I go on saying…

    I see walls rising and enclosing,
    separating the have’s from the have not’s,
    dividing society, promoting derision.

    I see food and natural resources being wasted and cast aside.
    Millions falling asleep hungry,
    lands and seas shriveling, society’s poisons flowing freely.

    I see children of the affluent having all they could wish for and beyond,
    while there are the children of the shadows
    shivering in the cold,
    their flowing tears the only source of warmth.

    I see unrest, raised fists, overturned cars,
    protesting the injustices of the world,
    while there are others who must suffer in silence, their voices falling upon barren minds.

    And I keep saying, things will change,
    things will get better,
    as I kneel and look to the heavens.
    But how long must I wait… a lifetime or beyond?

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Kana (Kanako Kitamoto)

    Thank you.
    Whenever I say thank you.
    I know that a man, an invisible tall man with a black hat, listens to me
    somewhere in the world.
    He smiles to me because he is happy to know that I have a friend to appreciate.
    He cries for me because he knows how hard it is for me to say thank you in such a hard time.
    He sings for me, he waves his hat for me,
    as if he tries to make me laugh at him,
    because he knows what I need is courage to live in this world.
    He gives me a supportive push toward the future.
    Thank you, Thank you.
    I am not alone.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Say Thanks, Give Thanks

    “Give thanks in all circumstances,”
    so the Bible says.
    Easier said than done
    when darkness envelops the land
    and you fear Man
    until the sun rises again

    Dark skin
    Dark as night
    Seen as a sin
    A defect from within

    Hurry, Light!
    Make it right.
    Give me day
    Until I no longer fear night.

    Please I pray
    for the light of day
    and a world where thanks
    is easier to say
    more and more each day.


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