To Smoke

Even now when we
can no longer remember
how much of the scent
of the world we gave up
life after life in the hope
of being able to hold
something in our hands

we recognize you at once
every time without fail
day or night wherever
you may be coming from
across the hill or
under the door
and we imagine you
even when you are not there
we can never be sure
you reach all the way to us
out of somewhere we have forgotten
we wake into dreams of you
as the bees do
hoping it is not true

the world is burning
you have always been warning
us too late and only
as you were leaving
ghost of what we have known
something reminds us of you
in the fragrance of morning
in the opening flowers
in a breath at the moment
it seems to be ours
 

Presented by

W. S. Merwin received the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in poetry for The Shadow of Sirius. His many works of poetry and translation include Present Company (2007), Migration: New and Selected Poems (2005), and a version of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (2004). He lives in Hawaii.

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