“We shall go warm.
We shall go on by the light of our hearts.
We shall burn mightily in the new year.
We shall go on together—
O you who stand alone on the rim of the earth and are cold,
I salute you here!”
From “Greeting” by May Sarton, New Year’s Eve, 1937
Now all my teachers are dead except silence.
So said W.S. Merwin, poet who died today aged 91. In college he was one of my teachers. At a remove – he didn’t teach at my university – but genuinely, mystically. In a way that mattered.
I mourn his passing, also remotely, as a poet and reader of poetry mourns the passing of all poets. In this destitute time, we need all the poets we can get. But Merwin was no stranger to destitute times, and he earned his stripes.
Farewell, then. Peace.
We are all powerless against the force of disorder, the sheer chaos, of a universe fleeing the scene of its own creation. But at least we have dogs.
That’s just a brief note copied from last night’s journal entry. And it’s funny: that looks so much more formidable handwritten in that little notebook. It’s half a page! Looks more profound too. But such is the writing life. Sometimes you think you’ve caught a dragon by the tail, but it’s just a hummingbird with other flowers on her mind.
The Time between Thanksgiving
and Christmas is a mystery to me.
The clocks stop – you can hear
them suddenly not ticking – and
disappear into the walls and all
the shadowed spaces
of our hopeful daily lives.
The clocks go on ticking only
in hospitals and jails.
Once they have stopped and
forsaken their posts, Time takes
a deep breath, looks around
a moment, and begins to run.
It runs out of the school, heading
west, hits the gas at the pizza
place, hard right by the church,
squealing past homes and offices,
feed lots where the animals live
weeping and hardly notice
Time, past my house and yours
with a sound like a sudden rain
on hot tarmac, and on to where
the sun goes down on everything
we love. In the morning, it is
Christmas. There are deer among
the trees, their soft breath steaming
as the light breaks through.
J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed
This is precisely the time when artists go to work. There is no time for despair, no place for self-pity, no need for silence, no room for fear. We speak, we write, we do language. That is how civilizations heal. I know the world is bruised and bleeding, and though it is important not to ignore its pain, it is also critical to refuse to succumb to its malevolence. Like failure, chaos contains information that can lead to knowledge — even wisdom. Like art.