W. S. Merwin: Twelve Poems


Audio: Hear W. S. Merwin read this poem (1:50)

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)


The Speed of Light (1994)

So gradual in those summers was the going
          of the age it seemed that the long days setting out
when the stars faded over the mountains were not
          leaving us even as the birds woke in full song and the dew
glittered in the webs it appeared then that the clear morning
          opening into the sky was something of ours
to have and keep and that the brightness we could not touch
          and the air we could not hold had come to be there all the time
for us and would never be gone and that the axle
          we did not hear was not turning when the ancient car
coughed in the roofer's barn and rolled out echoing
          first thing into the lane and the only tractor
in the village rumbled and went into its rusty
          mutterings before heading out of its lean-to
into the cow pats and the shadow of the lime tree
          we did not see that the swallows flashing and the sparks
of their cries were fast in the spokes of the hollow
          wheel that was turning and turning us taking us
all away as one with the tires of the baker's van
          where the wheels of bread were stacked like days in calendars
coming and going all at once we did not hear
          the rim of the hour in whatever we were saying
or touching all day we thought it was there and would stay
          it was only as the afternoon lengthened on its
dial and the shadows reached out farther and farther
          from everything that we began to listen for what
might be escaping us and we heard high voices ringing
          the village at sundown calling their animals home
and then the bats after dark and the silence on its road

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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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