I didn’t know this poem by W. S. Merwin until recently. On first read it felt so somber, and tonight on New Year’s eve, not the usual fare for ringing in the coming year. Yet, somehow it seems appropriate now, and I hear the gratitude in it. The bowing to the unanticipated and commonplace gifts of the passing year.
The anniversary of your death approaches, Kissie. I think of all the years before when we passed “the day” without knowing it. And when finally, by grace, we saw that unbidden day approaching (an experience I will ever try to somehow articulate) it was indeed a strange garment and still surprising, and the morning birds, somehow, sang.
For the Anniversary of My Death | W.S. Merwin
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what