W. S. Merwin: Twelve Poems


Audio: Hear W. S. Merwin read this poem (0:59)

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)


Before the Flood (1998)

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

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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