WS Merwin

W.S. Merwin–Online Poems Essay, Research Paper


By this part of the century few are left who believe

in the animals for they are not there in the carved parts

of them served on plates and the pleas from the slatted trucks

are sounds of shadows that possess no future

there is still game for the pleasure of killing

and there are pets for the children but the lives that followed

courses of their own other than ours and older

have been migrating before us some are already

far on the way and yet Peter with his gaunt cheeks

and point of white beard the face of an aged Lawrence

Peter who had lived on from another time and country

and who had seen so many things set out and vanish

still believed in heaven and said he had never once

doubted it since his childhood on the farm in the days

of the horses he had not doubted it in the worst

times of the Great War and afterward and he had come

to what he took to be a kind of earthly

model of it as he wandered south in his sixties

by that time speaking the language well enough

for them to make him out he took the smallest roads

into a world he thought was a thing of the past

with wildflowers he scarcely remembered and neighbors

working together scything the morning meadows

turning the hay before the noon meal bringing it in

by milking time husbandry and abundance

all the virtues he admired and their reward bounteous

in the eyes of a foreigner and there he remained

for the rest of his days seeing what he wanted to see

until the winter when he could no longer fork

the earth in his garden and then he gave away

his house land everything and committed himself

to a home to die in an old chateau where he lingered

for some time surrounded by those who had lost

the use of body or mind and as he lay there he told me

that the wall by his bed opened almost every day

and he saw what was really there and it was eternal life

as he recognized at once when he saw the gardens

he had made and the green fields where he had been

a child and his mother was standing there then the wall would close

and around him again were the last days of the world

Online Source:


Out of the dry days

through the dusty leaves

far across the valley

those few notes never

heard here before

one fluted phrase

floating over its

wandering secret

all at once wells up

somewhere else

and is gone before it

goes on fallen into

its own echo leaving

a hollow through the air

that is dry as before

where is it from

hardly anyone

seems to have noticed it

so far but who now

would have been listening

it is not native here

that may be the one

thing we are sure of

it came from somewhere

else perhaps alone

so keeps on calling for

no one who is here

hoping to be heard

by another of its own

unlikely origin

trying once more the same few

notes that began the song

of an oriole last heard

years ago in another

existence there

it goes again tell

no one it is here

foreign as we are

who are filling the days

with a sound of our own

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At the last minute a word is waiting

not heard that way before and not to be

repeated or ever be remembered

one that always had been a household word

used in speaking of the ordinary

everyday recurrences of living

not newly chosen or long considered

or a matter for comment afterward

who would ever have thought it was the one

saying itself from the beginning through

all its uses and circumstances to

utter at last that meaning of its own

for which it had long been the only word

though it seems now that any word would do

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How long ago the day is

when at last I look at it

with the time it has taken

to be there still in it

now in the transparent light

with the flight in the voices

the beginning in the leaves

everything I remember

and before it before me

present at the speed of light

in the distance that I am

who keep reaching out to it

seeing all the time faster

where it has never stirred from

before there is anything

the darkness thinking the light

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Why did he promise me

that we would build ourselves

an ark all by ourselves

out in back of the house

on New York Avenue

in Union City New Jersey

to the singing of the streetcars

after the story

of Noah whom nobody

believed about the waters

that would rise over everything

when I told my father

I wanted us to build

an ark of our own there

in the back yard under

the kitchen could we do that

he told me that we could

I want to I said and will we

he promised me that we would

why did he promise that

I wanted us to start then

nobody will believe us

I said that we are building

an ark because the rains

are coming and that was true

nobody ever believed

we would build an ark there

nobody would believe

that the waters were coming

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