W. S. Merwin: Twelve Poems


Audio: Hear W. S. Merwin read this poem (1:13)

Vehicles (1994)
The Speed of Light (1994)
End of a Day (1994)
Green Fields (1995)
Another River (1997)
Echoing Light (1997)
Remembering (1997)
Shore Birds (1998)
Before the Flood (1998)
Unknown Bird (1999)
Any Time (1999)
Term (1999)


Also see:
Swimming Up Into Poetry
The Atlantic's longtime poetry editor reflects on the career of W. S. Merwin, whose long association with the magazine spans great distances of geography and art (August 1997)


Unknown Bird (1999)

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

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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