Can I get used to it day after day
a little at a time while the tide keeps
coming in faster the waves get bigger
building on each other breaking records
this is not the world that 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 has been on my mind since his death last month, reading his poems and the outpouring of tributes to this remarkable poet and environmentalist who planted numerous palm trees in his home in Maui. On the last day of the world / I would want to plant a tree, from Place.
This poem caught my attention as I struggle most days, as I believe many of us do, to live with the news. The imagery of the tide coming in faster and the waves getting bigger is one I can relate to as I ponder the question he asks Can I get used to it day after day / a little at a time? I’m not sure I can and yet I do, we do. It’s true I don’t remember the world being this way before because of course, it is always changing.
I am imagining the face that he finds in the box he has packed is his own, his obituary photo perhaps – 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 . The lives and deaths, the everyday happenings that are not the front page news but the real things that happen to each of us.
endless patience will never be enough though we have great need of that, yet he does not end there. He gives us this important instruction: the only hope is to be the daylight . And so, no matter what the news, how enormous the waves, how impossible to get used to it, we must learn to be the daylight not merely the darkness.
William Merwin was someone who knew how to be the daylight, how to share that light with the world, and that light will continue to shine through his poetry.