Synchronicity – A Sweetness to Savour on New Year’s Day 2018 – Another Tribute to W.S. Merwin

American Poet W.S. Merwin

A Momentary Creed

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at the moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

W.S. Merwin from The Shadow of Sirius (Winner, National Book Award), Copper Canyon Press, 2009


What a poem for the start of a year. To celebrate a New year by celebrating as its only one, its first day. What a poem of presence. Of being in the moment. What a meditation on our ephemeral living. On the miracle of a day and what it brings us. My sense of gratitude overwhelms me as I read and re-read this poem. What lack of arrogance and hubris: everything that I call mine it lent me// even the way that I believe the day/ for as long as it is here and is me.

Take a breath.  Feel yourself in this one day you have, now. Read the poem again. What stays with you? What from this poem would you like to remember for the each of the one days that will make up the year to come?  May you all enter your New Year blessed by this poem.

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A New Year’s Day thanks to poet Rosemary Griebel who responded to my New Year’s Eve post yesterday with a W.S. Merwin poem, Rain Light. Its timbre of grief echoing for her from yesterday’s post. In reply to Rosemary I sent another Merwin poem, Living With the News first published in the New Yorker in 2014. One of more than 200 of his poems featured there! And then, as I was searching through files for other Merwin poems I came across my New Year’s Eve blog post for 2016.  There, a tribute to Merwin! Exactly a year to the day of Rosemary’s Merwin reminder. To read that blog post please click here.

So in a way of honouring synchronicity, here a year and a day later, is another tribute to Merwin who turned 90 in September 2017. A year where he also lost his beloved companion Paula.  Poignant because many of his later poems touch on his awareness of the impermanence of life and their life together.

I celebrate his koan-like pieces of light, the quality many of his poems share. And I celebrate his poems that shine even in their conversations with dark especially around the state of our planet and its animals.  But first a brief bi0. His first collection A Mask for Janus won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize selected by W.H. Auden in 1952. Since then, including A Mask for Janus, 29 poetry collections including his latest in 2017, The Essential W.S. Merwin lots of prose collections and numerous translations. Among numerous awards two Pulitzers and a National Book Award and the huge honour of being the 2010 U.S.Poet Laureate.

Here the poem Rosemary sent me yesterday:

Rain Light

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning

W.S. Merwin, ibid

Ouch. Life’s fragility, its marvels and its terrors: even though the whole world is burning. And now the poem I send back to Rosemary in response:


Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps changing
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records
this is not the world I remember
then comes the day when I open the box
that I remember packing with such care
and there is the face that I had known well
in little pieces staring up at me
it is not mentioned on the front pages
but somewhere far back near the real estate
among the things that happen every day
to someone who now happens to be me
and what can I do and who can tell me
then there is what the doctor comes to say
endless patience will never be enough
the only hope is to be the daylight.

W.S. Merwin from Garden Time, Copper Canyon Press, 2016

Again Merwin’s preoccupation with how little time we have here on this fragile planet. Yet his all consuming hope: endless patience will never be enough/ the only hope is to be the daylight.

My hope for each of us this year: do not forgwet this exhortation: the only hope is to be the daylight. Happy New Year.


  1. Donna Friesen
    Posted January 1, 2018 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful–the only hope is to be the daylight. Thank you Richard and Rosemary.

  2. Richard Osler
    Posted January 1, 2018 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    That’s a line to keep me going this year! the only hope is to be the daylight. Some Italy adventure might happen. Will know in a few weeks. Will keep you posted. Lots of love, Richard

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