Would I love it this way …
I have spent the last three years memorizing one poem a month and writing about it for TS Poetry. I’m continuing the practice here as My Little Poem.
The Daily Poem covered W.S. Merwin’s “The Morning” in 2019, but I only found it in 2022. I’d been looking for a Merwin to learn, and this one surprised me and called me by name.
It begins, “Would I love it this way if it could last”
The poem has no punctuation; it’s just one long, loving meditation, from a poet who created a palm tree sanctuary in Hawaii, who adored my beautiful, flawed state of Texas. Whose poems always take me somewhere I didn’t know I needed to go.
Before it was ordinary to be consumed by fear, I was consumed by fear. Before it was common to be consumed by anger, I was consumed by anger. Like all feelings, those are both valid and potentially life-saving, but in my case, my brooding was soul-killing. Spinning worst-case scenarios and plotting clever retorts to my enemies was not blessing me. I was not living my best life.
But something has shifted in me. Here, as a new year draws nigh, I find myself consumed by love. I love cold, rainy days. I love sunny, warm days. I love people who used to drive me bananas. I find myself dreaming about writing a romance, and I don’t even like romance books.
Enter Merwin. Enter “The Morning.”
The refrain “would I love it this way” appears five times, and there are a few more implied with the simple word “or.” The speaker loves The Morning but wonders whether he would love it this way if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if, if. (Nine times, if.)
Perhaps not. But each if is true, and so he does love it.
My favorite if’s come all in a clump:
would I love it this way if I were somewhere else
or if I were younger for the first time
or if these very birds were not singing
or I could not hear them or see their trees
The answer I sense myself giving to each question is, No, no, no, no. I love The Morning this way because I am here, now. I love The Morning this way because I am old enough to appreciate it. I love The Morning this way because these very birds are singing, and I do hear them and can see their trees.
The next lines are my favorites:
would I love it this way if I were in pain
red torment of body or gray void of grief
In my mind I amend those words to “would I love it this way if I were NOT in pain / red torment of body or gray void of grief.” Today I am in pain (mostly “gray void of grief,” if you’re interested), and that’s why I love This Morning, “out of all the mornings that I never knew / and all those that I have forgotten.”
I spent all month with this poem, reading it aloud to the birds and the autumn trees, to my old puppies. I don’t have it By Heart. But this little poem has my heart.
It has my heart.
I loved this book. As soon as I finished, I began reading it again.”
—David Lee Garrison, author of Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro