thank you {day 5}

5 Oct

Sometimes, when there are no words that you can say, when your hands are empty, you take onto your lips the words of another.

That’s the way it’s always been for me. When my prayers are weak, I pray the words of Jesus: “Our Father, who art in heaven…” Or the words of those English Christians whose prayers were almost poetry: “O Lord, make haste to help me.” For the next couple weeks, I am going to share a few poems that have been my companions, that have made me feel not alone, as I hurt and as I healed.

I have never been one for Pollyanna thinking, never a fan of having your best life NOW!, never one to ply cheap gratitude. But somehow saying “thank you” has always seemed right, not for the darkness but in it. If anything, it was a protest against the darkness, a declaration that I will not be owned by this.

I read W.S. Merwin’s “Thanks” for the first time in the introduction to Anne Lamott’s Traveling Mercies. I had transferred to a new college as a junior, awkwardly wedged between the upperclassmen who had sorted themselves into groups of friends and the wide-eyed freshmen who knew nothing about college. I cried in the shower and felt my heart race and the world go dark. I panicked about three questions missed on a quiz. I called my old university and asked if I could get my scholarship back.

When I look back at it, I could see depression, the trickster, begin to follow me. But I also see the first seeds of healing. I took up Merwin’s words, beautiful and bleak, onto my lips. In these words, the light and dark danced together, a chiaroscuro. Just as they did in life.

Thank you, I said. Thank you for the light, even when it casts so many shadows. So I thanked then and I thank now, even when it seems there is no one listening, even when things are bleak, even when I can’t tell what I am thanking for. Thank you, dark though it is.

Thanks
       W. S. Merwin
Listen
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

This post is part of a series, 31 Days of Healing. Check out Day 1 or the complete list of posts. If you want to follow along, you can also subscribe by email or subscribe in a feed reader. And thank you so much for reading!

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6 Responses to “thank you {day 5}”

  1. Hannah October 5, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Beautiful poem, beautiful post. Love this idea of simply saying “thank you.” I know I need to do it more!

    • Christina October 5, 2012 at 7:27 pm #

      Hannah, I do too. I have a friend who went for a hike in the woods a couple years ago and decided she was going to thank God for every part of her body during the hike. She never got past her feet. I don’t think I could thank God for my feet for 45 minutes. But maybe I’m getting there… :)

  2. Mallory October 5, 2012 at 7:23 pm #

    Thank you. I found this blog somehow, and it is helping me.

    • Christina October 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      Mallory, I’m glad you found it, however it happened! Thanks so much for reading.

  3. suzannah | the smitten word October 6, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    WOW. “a protest against the darkness, a declaration that I will not be owned by this.”

    we are waving dark though it is…so powerful and moving. so glad to meet you here, christina. grateful.

    • Christina October 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

      Suzannah, I’m humbled. Thanks for the kind words. I’ve been reading your blog for a while but for some reason hadn’t commented before now. Thanks for stopping over here!

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