Poetry Review: “It is March” by W.S. Merwin

This month, MontanaWriter is featuring poems about the month of March. 

A gray day puts me in a gray state of mind. That is often the way it is for me. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I think better and write better when the sky feels closer to earth. On days of fog and low-slung clouds I naturally stay closer to my self… am less likely to feel dissipated and refracted.

Writing is a brooding art… not a social one. A sunny day on a beach does not lend itself to brooding. A foggy, rainy day on your couch, surrounded by shelves of books, naturally does. I like to brood. It is, in the end, what I do best. It is what poets and writers do best.

In the poem “It is March,” Merwin writes about March, and writing, and such days.

Enjoy!

 

It Is March
It is March and black dust falls out of the books
Soon I will be gone
The tall spirit who lodged here has
Left already
On the avenues the colorless thread lies under
Old prices

When you look back there is always the past
Even when it has vanished
But when you look forward
With your dirty knuckles and the wingless
Bird on your shoulder
What can you write

The bitterness is still rising in the old mines
The fist is coming out of the egg
The thermometers out of the mouths of the corpses

At a certain height
The tails of the kites for a moment are
Covered with footsteps

Whatever I have to do has not yet begun

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

At a certain height
The tails of the kites for a moment are
Covered with footsteps

Whatever I have to do has not yet begun

 

Merwin is the “suffering singer”… the writer who makes beauty out of pain. I have written of Merwin elsewhere at MontanaWriter that:

Merwin is at his best when dealing with the emotions of loneliness and guilt… universal emotions occasioned by finitude, by living in a fallen creation. There is nothing occasional about loneliness and guilt. They are the  human condition… the field that we all labor and sing in.

Themes of loneliness and guilt are central to “It is March”. And yet, there is also behind it all – or more appropriately – beneath the words and images of this poem a subtext of hope. Without hope after all, there can be no music, no art, no language, no words.

 

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