At the News of Merwin’s Passing
For Orion magazine
I pull out my favorite book of his, The Rain in the Trees. I read every poem from it to my middle-school students last year, one by one, morning by morning. Each morning a poem. They closed their eyes as I read. When it was over, they opened their eyes, slowly, to the brutal-beautiful world again, and we’d talk. They mulled thoughtfully over each word and meaning. Each sound. On spring mornings the rain pattered from the gutter outside the window, against the school building. A rain-soaked o’hia forest on Hawai’i Island darkens the cover of the book. I told them about the sound of the rain there on banana leaves, on the tin roof of the old sugarcane-processing barn my father lives in.