Tony Leighton is a Canadian writer happily retired and attempting to help others feel the same.

Will we ever know what to say?

A child has died. Not a child anymore — he was 25 — and yet he was still the child of a woman I know, because all of our children remain, in part, children to us.

And no matter how old we get, I’m not sure that we ever know what to say in the face of the unspeakable.

Then, this morning, another friend provided what seem like just the right words to me. He emailed the short, evocative poem below by W.S. Merwin, the former Poet Laureate of the United States, who, as it happens, died two days before my friend’s child. He was 91.

Utterance

Sitting over words
very late I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence

— W.S. Merwin, from his 1988 book The Rain in the Trees

 

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Eliminating Wisdom