Category Archives: W.S Merwin


On the morning of the Fourth of July, I purchased a small packet of “colorful smoke bombs” at Target. Since the city of Chicago does not allow its citizens to purchase real fireworks–a memo which, based on the yearly volume of spectacular city-wide neighborhood displays, hundreds of individuals do not receive!–we are forced to purchase items like colorful smoke bombs; items which a baby kitten could safely consume in its small dish of milk without undergoing bodily harm. 

I got carded.

CASHIER: Yeah…They just started doing this a few days ago.
CASHIER + ME: [roll eyeballs all the way into the back of our heads until our whole eyeballs fall out of our heads]


I cannot purchase spray paint in Chicago. I am carded for buying a paper smoke bomb the size of an unshelled walnut.  I pay extra taxes when I want a bottle of water.



Oh, and sparklers! I can’t buy those, either.  Sweet, sparkly focus of a million childhood memories: Now I am a woman grown, and I cannot obtain you.


Do you think George Washington would be happy, knowing that I’m not allowed to buy sparklers? 

GEORGE WASHINGTON: Was it for thus that I forded the Potomac?


For about two years now, I’ve said, “I’m not going to Pitchfork again. They shall have to line Union Park with cupcake-bearing bald eagles. I shan’t stir one step.” And then…I go. I thought that when I said it last year, I meant it; meant it in the way that you mean the Pledge of Allegiance.  But I guess I didn’t, since here I go, there, again.

It’s summer, I think. You forget your need to be out in the summer sun while you can, at such events, such festivals and fairs, until they’re upon you. Then only the heedless could turn away. “I would rather sit at home in my snowsuit,” you might as well say, and you wouldn’t say that.


New in the world of poetry: A new poet laureate! Yoink! W.S Merwin!

You can find two of his poems here, in previous Wheat Dear blogs:

The Nails”


I enjoy W.S Merwin greatly, but I will miss Kay Ryan, poet laureate before him. [Click here and you shall see what I wrote about Kay Ryan, back when.] She is a magical lady, and sees clearly.

If you have the time, and the inclination, you must and must read a piece she wrote for “Poetry” several years ago [here]:

“I Go to AWP”

AWP is basically the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference [something-or-other]. Kay Ryan went to their conference in Vancouver in 2005, and then she wrote about it; what she wrote about it is earth-shatteringly high on my Favorite O’Meter.

It’s got to be good, to register on the ol’ Favorite O’Meter. Sehr gut.


She writes:

“Make mine the desert saints, the pole-sitters, the endurance cyclists, the artist who paints rocks cast from bronze so that they look exactly like the rocks they were cast from; you can’t tell the difference when they’re side by side. It took her years to do a pocketful. You just know she doesn’t go to art conferences.”

I love.


Anywho, W. S  Merwin.

W.S apparently lives on the edge of a dormant volcano on Maui. [What?] From the New York Times:

“Although raised in the Western tradition, he said he feels more affinity with an Eastern one, ‘being part of the universe and everything living’. With that exhilarating connection comes responsibility, however. ‘You don’t just exploit it and use it and throw it away any more than you would a member of your family,’ he said. ‘You’re not separate from the frog in the pond or the cockroach in the kitchen.'”

These are the kinds of things I don’t need to know about the people whose writing I enjoy.

 [I am a jerk?]


Katie and Bridgid and I kept e-mailing each other lines from “The Nails” for a day or so, but I had to stop, eventually; there are only so many lines you can send your friends from “The Nails”, and receive from them in return, before you start crying your eyes out.

We’ll close with another Merwin poem. 

It gets the job done.



Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.

W.S Merwin



Filed under I Do Not Know, Kay Ryan, Poetry, W.S Merwin


Maybe this is why I didn’t post anything last week. Maybe my heart had turned to ash, okay?


Landsakes–there’s been ever so much-and-so many goings on,  just generally speaking, that one scarcely knows where to dive in!

For example, we could talk about Scott Lee Cohen, the embattled former Democratic nominee for Lieutenant Governor of the State of Illinois:

If by “embattled” you mean “hoist by your own petard”, and if by “hoist by your own petard” you mean “police records”.

Because if Illinoisans do one thing right, it’s ensuring–via the democratic process!–that only the most hilariously untoward individuals are placed in a position of potential power.

COHEN: I’m a pawnbroker who assaulted my ex-girlfriend with a knife!
CITIZENS OF ILLINOIS: Cohen for President!

Ugh, embarrassing! Embarrassing. Illinois, I can’t take you anywhere.

MY ROOMMATE, THE NIGHT THIS STORY BROKE: [cheerfully.]     Well, the national media doesn’t seem to have picked it up yet!


That same night, I was reading a poem on a webby-site. The poem was about the death of a father. In the comments section below the poem, another reader spoke of how his own father had died; of how the poem moved him. The poet responded: “Thank you.” That is the perfect circle.

I read this to my roommate, and she told me a story.

Several years ago, she sang in a choir. The choir had some sort of show, which took place on two consecutive evenings. There are other details to the story, but the important detail is this.

On the night of the second performance, their conductor congratulated them on their performance of the previous evening. Then he told them that a man–an audience member–had approached him, that night before, and explained that his wife had died some months ago; and that as the man listened to their singing that night, it was the first time that he had been able to forget his grief.


That is everything. 


On February 8, the space shuttle Endeavour [what’s up with that “ou” spelling? That is traitorous, treason-talk spelling] took off for the International Space Station.

They–the astronauts–have attached what’s basically a new room to the space station. The room is known as


Though its technical name is


[This is not a joke]

After this, there will be only four more manned shuttle launches. President Obama’s  proposed NASA budget does not allow for the continuation of the Constellation program, which was developing the next generation of spaceflight vehicular na-na. The plan is to develop such things with the monetary support of the “private sector”.

I am a fan of the private sector. But I am nervous. Some of the space glamour has been stripped from life, it feels like.

[And I know that there are other ways to channel our monies in the here and now and Earth-bound, and who am I to take food from the mouth of a starving baby, but?  But. There is merit in exploration and knowledge, in discovery. It strikes me right to the heart to think that these concepts will somehow continue down a long, downward slide of devaluation. I think there is room for all of it, food for babies and cylindrical space nodes alike. Once I fix my Whole World Calculator, I will set things to rights. I promise.]

Also, do you want to see a manned space vehicle soaring through the hushed, sparkling outer reaches of the universe with a Doritos ad on it?



The Nails

I gave you sorrow to hang on your wall
Like a calendar in one color.
I wear a torn place on my sleeve.
It isn’t as simple as that.

Between no place of mine and no place of yours
You’d have thought I’d know the way by now
Just by thinking it over.
Oh I know
I’ve no excuse to be stuck here turning
Like a mirror on a string,
Except it’s hardly credible how
It all keeps changing.
Loss has a wider choice of directions
Than the other thing.

As if I had a system
I shuffle among the lies
Turning them over, if only
I could be sure what I’d lost.
I uncover my footprints, I
Poke them till the eyes open.
They don’t recall what it looked like.
When was I using it last?
Was it like a ring or a light
On the autumn pond
Which chokes and glitters but
Grows colder?
It could be all in the mind. Anyway
Nothing seems to bring it back to me.

And I’ve been to see
Your hands as trees borne away on a flood,
The same film over and over,
And an old one at that, shattering its account
To the last of the digits, and nothing
And the blank end.

The lightning has shown me the scars of the future.

I’ve had a long look at someone
Alone like a key in a lock
Without what it takes to turn.

It isn’t as simple as that.

Winter will think back to your lit harvest
For which there is no help, and the seed
Of eloquence will open its wings
When you are gone.
But at this moment
When the nails are kissing the fingers good-bye
And my only
Chance is bleeding from me,
When my one chance is bleeding,
For speaking either truth or comfort
I have no more tongue than a wound.

W.S Merwin

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Filed under I Do Not Know, Indianapolis Colts, Math and Science: General, My Roommate, Poetry, W.S Merwin

Sloops, Sleeps

Sleepless nights are the devil’s own, I tell ye, and I’ve been having them lots and lots lately. I had one just the other night. I couldn’t locate sleep on a map, a detailed map with topographical details and vivid red arrows that pointed to “Sleep: two nautical miles” and “Sleep: this-a-way” and “Sleep: look here, cowpoke, a whole Great Plains of slumber”! I do not know when I finally went unconscious, but the next day was a slog through the salt mines, and make no mistake. At one point I referred to my skeleton as “glue”, if that helps “paint the picture”.

I wish that lying awake in that manner truly helped to resolve one’s thoughts and feelings–you’re wide awake, so you might as well resolve away!–but that is not the case. Rather, one’s thought patterns careen their way down the same paths and subjects over and over, like a cruise missile with a faulty navigational system:

What does “subaltern” mean, again?
Emotional things
I forgot to take that bobby pin out of my hair
Now I have taken it out
More emotions
I wonder if it is worthwhile to obtain gingersnaps from the kitchen
I have eaten my weight in gingersnaps lately
They are so delicious
I think I hear something
Monsters aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaiiiiiiiiiii

When I woke up, apparently having nodded off, it was from a dream that I could set things on fire with my mind.



My niece, examining fish at the St. Louis Zoo.


Subaltern basically means “subordinate.”


The word limn means “to represent in drawing or painting” or “to describe”. It can also mean to “trace the shape of”. I am in love with this word of late. It’s a lovely word. Limn limn limn, I am always thinking. Limn it up.


There will be a total eclipse of the sun on Friday! However, I am devastated to report that it will basically only be visible from the Arctic and, like, Mongolia. Nonethless, if you go to this website, you will be able to watch the eclipse live from Novosibirsk, Russia! Hoorah! Or, as they say in Russia, внушительно [“It is imposing!”]

In my girlhood, there was a solar eclipse. Our teachers–for reasons best known to themselves–decided to let us outside to watch what was happening through our specially prepared “pinhole” boxes. I remember strange shadows and squirrels running mad in Craig Park, which is next to my old elementary school. [O Craig Park! If parks could talk, gentle readers. If parks could talk.] I also remember another girl brazenly examining the sun with her bare eyes. “Brazen!” I thought, and then I probably thought: “What does ‘brazen’ mean?”, because I was a kid, for God’s sakes.

This is a map of all the solar eclipses to come:

Where will I be in my life on July 2, 2019? Or on November 13, 2012? Where will you be? Do you know? You do?

I ought to get cracking then, oughtn’t I?


You see, shore-hugging is neither surety
Nor earns salt pride braving the long sea-sweeps.
This came up in the dark while some of us
Bore on in our sleep. Was there
In the dogwatch already, hiding the Dog Star.
We woke into it, rising from dreams
Of sea-farms slanting on cliffs in clear light
And white houses winking there–sweet landmarks
But no help to us at the helm. Hours now
We have been drifting. It would be near noon.
Feeling the tides fight under our feet
Like a crawling of carpets. Turning our heads
To pick up the cape-bell, the hoots of the shoal-horn
That seem to come from all over. Distrusting
Every direction that is simple, to shoreward. This
Landfall is not vouchsafed us for
We have abused landfalls, loving them wrong
And too timorously. What coastline
Will not cloud over if looked at long enough?
Not through the rings running with us of enough
Horizons, not wide enough risking,
Not hard enough have we wrought our homing.
Drifting itself now is danger. Where are we?
Well, the needle still swings to north, and we know
Even in this blindness which way deep water lies.
Ships were not shaped for haven but if we were
There will be time for it yet. Let us turn head,
Out oars, and pull for the open. Make we
For midsea, where the winds are and stars too.
There will be wrung weathers, sea-shakings, calms,
Weariness, the giant water that rolls over our fathers,
And hungers hard to endure. But whether we float long
Or founder soon, we cannot be saved here.

W.S Merwin


Filed under Math and Science: General, Nieces and Nephews, Poetry, W.S Merwin