Friday, December 25, 2015

Two Poems by W.S. Merwin

The Lost Originals

If only you had written our language
we would have remembered how you died

if you had wakened at our windows
we would have known who you were

we would have felt horror
at the pictures of you behind the barbed wire

from which you did not emerge
we would have returned to the shots of you lying dead with your kin

we would have ached to hear of your freezing
and your hunger in the hands of our own kind

we would have suffered at the degradation of your women
we would have studied you reverently

we would have repeated the words of your children
we would have been afraid for you

you would have made us ashamed and indignant
and righteous

we would have been proud of you
we would have mourned you

you would have survived
as we do

we might have believed
in a homeland

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day   
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

W.S. Merwin is the author of many books of poetry. Among them: A Mask for Janus, Yale University Press, 1952; Green with Beasts, Alfred A. Knopf, 1956; The Drunk in the Furnace, Macmillan, 1960; The Lice, Atheneum, 1967; The Carrier of Ladders, Atheneum, 1970; The Compass Flower, Atheneum, 1977; Opening the Hand, Atheneum, 1983; The Rain in the Trees, Alfred A. Knopf, 1988; Travels, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993; The Vixen, Alfred A. Knopf, 1996; Flower and Hand: Poems 1977-1983, Copper Canyon Press, 1997; The Folding Cliffs, Alfred A. Knopf, 1998; The River Sound, Alfred A. Knopf, 1999; The Pupil, Alfred A. Knopf, 2001; Migration: New & Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2005; Present Company, Copper Canyon Press, 2007; The Shadow of Sirius, Copper Canyon Press, 2008; The Moon Before Morning, Copper Canyon Press, 2014.

His poetry have been published in such periodicals as Poetry, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, The Nation, Partisan Review, Antaeus, Iowa Review, The Yale Review, and many others.

His other honors include the Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the Bollingen Prize, the Governor’s Award for Literature of the State of Hawaii, the Lannan Literary Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the PEN Translation Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Shelley Memorial Award, the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets, and the Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. He is a former Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and has served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2010 to 2011. He currently lives and works in Hawaii (

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