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Prompt: Thanks

Image via Pixabay

It’s the end of a terrible year. In America, we celebrated Thanksgiving last month, though celebrating was very different than in past years. Many families could not get together due to pandemic restrictions and fear of hurting those they love. Still, I felt like people were still looking for things to give thanks for despite all the bad news in 2020.
Our model poem this month is “Thanks” by W.S. Merwin from his collection Migration: New & Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2005).

 

A reading of Merwin’s poem. Part of a longer series of readings.
I can identify with many things in the poem in the context of 2020 though it was written years ago. Of course, that is what is true about all great literature – that it continues to be relevant long after it is written.
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
That makes me think not only of Thanksgiving dinner but of the several meteor showers that appear in the final months of the year.
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
Hospitals and funerals (though very different when they do occur)  and the news is full every night about the number of cases of COVID19 and the number of deaths globally.
over telephones we are saying thank you
Over phones is very likely how you have stayed in touch and talked with friends and loved ones.
And we may be frustrated with
the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
” 
but 
we go on saying thank you thank you
There is a kind of optimism in the idea that
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
William Stanley Merwin was born in New York City on September 30, 1927. Over the course of his long career, Merwin published over twenty books of poetry and almost as many books of translation. Merwin served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress and as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2010 to 2011. He died on March 15, 2019.
Some might call this a praise poem which is one of tribute, of gratitude, of honoring something or someone. I think it is different than that, but you can read some praise poems online and decide for yourself.
It is interesting that in Merwin’s list of things to be thankful for are probably some things for which you would not be thankful. Perhaps, his final lines –  “we are saying thank you and waving / dark though it is” explain their inclusion.
An additional poem to consider is one by Joy Harjo that was included on a list of “Thanksgiving poems for kids.” I’m not sure how old a “kid” would need to be to understand that poem, but I like the image of the kitchen table which is both a real kitchen table and the table of the world. 
I also like how the rather pessimistic title – “Perhaps the World Ends Here” – leads rights into its opposite – “The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live” so that when we arrive again at that title line it continues with “while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.” 

For this year-ending prompt that concludes a very difficult 2020, we ask you to consider thanks in all forms. From a list of many things to be thankful for, to a dismissive, sarcastic thanks, there are many things on that table of thanks – some we love, some we cannot love.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: December 31, 2020      We wish you a healthy new year!

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