Monday, May 24, 2010

listen/ with the night falling we are saying thank you

- w.s. merwin, thanks

This might be my melancholy spring moment. ooh, and on monday, too. Maybe i'll do melancholoy mondays. i mean, seriously, who loves mondays?

i was thinking about this merwin poem because over the past few months I've been re-watching the Wire. The first time I watched the show, I raced to get through it, eager to see the rest of the story. This time, I was savoring it, like those books that are so good you can only read 4 or 5 pages at once so that it lasts as long as you can draw it out. And also I was cramming it in between writing papers on ILS systems and reading about information literacy and making presentations about poetry. I know, my life is sooooo hard.

This time, I wanted to catch the expression on Omar's face when he testifies against Bird, and the way Jimmy self destructs, almost totally imploding. And how Bubs can't really believe he's alive, and the sheer beauty of his survival - he is one of the most lovely characters I've ever met, in a tv series or novel. How Greggs comes to terms with herself, easily missed among the loudness of the men around her. And mostly I'm now head-over-absolutely-heels-in-love with Carver. Over the course of five seasons, he becomes a grown up. For real.

So I was re-watching the Wire, and then also reading Marina Budhos' Ask Me No Questions, and also Marc Aronson's Race: a History Beyond Black and White. Ask Me No Questions is a novel of two undocumented sisters worrying about being deported, holding their family together. Race is non-fiction, and mostly what it sounds like.

I got to skype with these two authors in one of my classes this quarter, and Marc said something about tragedy - how our culture doesn't like to acknowledge tragedy, that we want to give teens a sugar-coated version of events in hopes that they won't re-create the mess we continue to make of things. But the irony is that only telling the truth about the mess is what gets it cleaned up.

I've been thinking about that a lot, since truth is the word of the year, and wondering how telling the truth plays out in different situations...And this poem keeps coming back to me - I think what I've loved about it since I first read it 6 years ago is that acknowledgement piece - just that there is much to be sad about here. And in the midst of that great sadness, there is also great beauty, and in saying thank you we are noticing the beauty around us. I think that's one reason I loved the Wire so much - It was Shakespearean tragedy at its best, with characters we can see the brilliance in even as we decry their wretched choices. Last night at church we sang about how all we have to offer are thankful hearts. That's the truest piece of religion that I know.

Here's the full text of that poem:

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

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