Sunday Best – March 17, 2019

It’s a curious time of year in New England, yo-yo-ing from bleak to hopeful, and lately the news seems to be following suit, with horror and mourning snuggled right up next to courage and celebration.

A good companion for this time has been the poetry of WS Merwin, who passed away on March 15, the Ides of March. Much of Merwin’s early and mid-life writing conveys the same sense of bewilderment and even despair that comes with reading our recent news, a “how did I get here?” sort of anguish, a seeking that is beyond urgent.

This backdrop is one reason I love the poem “In the Time of the Blossoms” so much. Here we find, in the midst of that disconnected searching, a moment of reconnection:

Ash tree

sacred to her who sails in

from the one sea

all over you leaf skeletons

fine as sparrow bones

stream out motionless 

on white heaven

staves of one

unbreathed music

Sing to me


That last line, “Sing to me,” just lifts up into the air, and I’m intrigued that it can be read either as a statement or a plea.

In the tumult of this week, I found myself coming upon some early blossoms and buds, at long last, and sensed what Merwin does here, a simultaneous grounding and lifting. Air and earth. Life and death. Motion and stillness.

Dear friends, if we find ourselves unmoored this week, let’s find a patch of tree or leaf or blossom or bud. Let’s whisper, whether in observation or supplication,

“Sing to me.”


* More of Merwin’s poetry can be found in his many publications, or  at Poetry Foundation, a group that makes endless poetic resources freely accessible, for which they deserve our gratitude and support.

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