For the Anniversary of My Death
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what
© W.S. Merwin estate
WILLIAM STANLEY MERWIN (September 30, 1927 – March 15, 2019) was an esteemed American poet with some fifty books of poems, prose and translation. Merwin was an activist involved in the anti-war movement in the ’60s. He was a student of Buddhist philosophy and a proponent of deep ecology.
W.S. Merwin was born in New York City, grew up in Union City, New Jersey and Scranton, Pennsylvania and died in Maui, Hawaii, where he’d lived for many years and was active in the environmental restoration of rainforests. He was noted for a love of nature and the condemnation of war and industrialization. He had a difficult childhood and youth and words were his escape. He won prestigious awards, including two Pulitzers and stands tall in the pantheon of literary greats. We are grateful to have a few of his collections on our shelf.
Photo credit: The street in Union City, New Jersey, which was renamed for him in 2006 courtesy of Luigi Novi under CC BY 3.0.
If you are reading this post from an email subscription, you will likely have to link through to the site to view this video.
- W.S. Merwin, prize-winning poet who celebrated nature and condemned war, dies at 91, Hillel Italie, Los Angeles Times
- Remembering W.S. Merwin, National Public Radio, Weekend Edition, Saturday
- W.S. Merwin, 1927-2019, Poetry Foundation
- The Ascetic Insight of W.S. Merwin, Don Chiasson, The New Yorker
- W.S. Merwin — Online Poems, Modern American Poetry, University of Illinois
- W.S. Merwin Amazon Page U.S. HERE, U.K HERE
Be still and know that I am God.
Be still and know that I am.
Be still and know.
Okay, it IS St. Patrick’s Day, but the whole green thing, I made up. Why not? Celebrating green: as in the traditional color of St. Patrick’s Day; as in the Emerald Isle with its engaging traditions; as in a sustainable world; as in the lovely green eyes some people have; as in Christmas Trees, front lawns, and forests.
All over the world there are wonderful religious and cultural traditions around this day, which in Ireland is a holy day of obligation for Catholics, meaning attendance at Mass is required.
St. Patrick, a fifth century Roman, went to Ireland to convert its peoples from their pagan* Celtic traditions. He is considered the Apostle of Ireland, equal to the original twelve. He is revered by Lutherans, Anglicans, and the Eastern Rites (Orthodox and Catholic) as well as the Roman Catholic Church. It is a day cheerfully celebrated with long colorful parades and famously or infamously (depending on your view) with a heavy-duty beer-fest, sometimes with beer that is tinted green.
*”Pagan” is often used as a pejorative. I would submit that the pagan path is simply another well leading to the one great Spiritual river. We see evidence on the Earth and in the sky, that the Creative Essence (also known as God) expresses with great diversity. Dishonoring and dismissing other traditions, other mystical expressions of the one Light, is disrespectful and a powerful way manipulative political and religious leaders pit us against one another for their own ends, even to war, torture and genocide. “To connect with the great river we all need a path, but when you get down there there’s only one river.” Matthew Fox The other guy’s religion is sacred, not superstition.
On my nightstand, I keep a copy of Eknath Easwaran’s God Makes the Rivers to Flow, An Anthology of the World’s Sacred Poetry and Prose. Here is St. Patrick’s Prayer shared by Eknath in that small treasure of a volume. Depending on what your tradition or leanings are, you could substitute God, Allah, Being, Mind, Light or some other resonating pointer in place of “Christ” as used here.
ST. PATRICK’S PRAYER
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ where I lie, Christ where I sit, Christ where I arise,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every one who speaks to me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Christ.
May your salvation, Lord, be ever with us.
© 2019, Jamie Dedes; illustration from Saint Patrick Catholic Church (Junction City, Ohio) – stained glass, Saint Patrick courtesy of Nheyob under CC BY-SA 4.0.; clip art courtesy of Public Domain Clip Art.
My apologies to Sonja and to readers. This poem was scheduled to appear in the March 2019 issue of the Zine, themed Waging Peace. Somehow it dropped out of the line-up. It’s an excellent poem and I know you’ll find yourself touched. / J.D.
he said the flames
came over the trees.
behind the buildings.
bombed the buildings.
so do not wonder why
i don’t play soldiers,
lay them down to die.
he says that i will not battle,
i am no good at it.
too peaceful. i can play
“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.”
Magazine international d’information et d’éducation culturelle.
Levure litteraire is an eclectic online Zine with an international masthead featuring art, music and literature in multiple languages. It’s the sort of Zine you will love to swim in, rich with color and experience. It’s worth your time. Meanwhile, here are three of mine published HERE in Levure litteraire. Enjoy!
Between Language and Myth
In the garden of light, I stand,
between language and myth.
Strands of wild green words
weave irresistible vines to climb.
I find the rules of grammar written
in the language of cellular memory,
strung like seedlings and pollen dust
around my bare and willing neck.
Each day I walk to the quarries
to hard mine for the sweetly lyrical.
I blister from digging in hot sands
and hard stone for parables.
The walls that bind my heart
are broken by the solace of
language spun on a vision quest.
I stride the hills of my heartland.
I write as though the fables are
my only real nourishment –
perhaps they are
Once Upon a Sea Green Day
We flew along the freeway yesterday under
a cold coastal expanse of a blue ceiling.
It reminded me of you and how we dusted
the vaults of our minds to rid them of fear
and the old lexicons of grief and guilt, the
whalebone girdles of unfounded faith and
common conventions, saccharine and sticky.
I thought of that one sea-green day we spent
under just such a sky in a land far away and
how we changed your name then, reframed
your story to tell of hope and not despair.
You sketched flowers blossoming in the dust
of a spring that promised but never delivered.
Now we don’t speak of men but of cats with
their custom of keeping heart and claws intact.
We tell ourselves stories in rhythms that resound
in deep sleep. Soon now the ancient calls to
feral festivals will still and the time’s arrived when
our only play is in the margins, fate hanging from
our skeletons like Spanish moss on old oak.
It pleases me that life’s passage spins
into poemed reliquary and a memory of the
red peau de soie I wore to your prom that June.
Le Fée Verte, Absinthe
in the wilderness of those green hours
gliding with the faerie muse along café
walls virescent, sighing jonquil wings of
poetry, inventing tales in the sooty red
mystery of elusive beauty, beguiled by an
opalescent brew, tangible for the poet and
the pedestrian, the same shared illusions
ascending the rosy ramparts of heaven
“A glass of absinthe is as poetical as anything in the world, what difference is there between a glass of absinthe and a sunset.” Oscar Wilde
Poems by Jamie Dedes. All rights reserved.