m_topn picture

S E P T E M B E R   1 9 9 4

m_rub_po picture


by W. S. Merwin

audioear picture Hear W. S. Merwin read "Vehicles" (requires the RealAudio RealPlayer).

(For help, see a note about the audio.)

Also by W. S. Merwin:
Unknown Bird (1999)
Term (1999)
Any Time (1999)
Before the Flood (1998)
Shore Birds (1998)
Three Poems (1997)
Green Fields (1995)

From Atlantic Unbound:

Swimming Up into Poetry, by Peter Davison (August 28, 1997)
The Atlantic's poetry editor reflects on the career of W. S. Merwin.

Return to:
An Audible Anthology
Poetry Pages


This is a place on the way after the distances
     can no longer be kept straight here in this dark corner
of the barn a mound of wheels has convened along
     raveling courses to stop in a single moment
and lie down as still as the chariots of the Pharaohs
     some in pairs that rolled as one over the same roads
to the end and never touched each other until they
     arrived here some that broke by themselves and were left
until they could be repaired some that went only
     to occasions before my time and some that have spun
across other countries through uncounted summers
     now they go all the way back together the tall
cobweb-hung models of galaxies in their rings
     of rust leaning against the stone hail from Rene's
manure cart the year he wanted to store them here
     because there was nobody left who could make them like that
in case he should need them and there are the carriage wheels
     that Merot said would be worth a lot some day
and the rim of the spare from bald Bleret's green Samson
     that rose like Borobudur out of the high grass
behind the old house by the river where he stuffed
     mattresses in the morning sunlight and the hens
scavenged around his shoes in the days when the black
     top-hat sedan still towered outside Sandeau's cow barn
with velvet upholstery and sconces for flowers and room
     for two calves instead of the back seat when their time came

audioear picture Hear W. S. Merwin read "The Speed of Light" (requires the RealAudio RealPlayer).


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

audioear picture Hear W. S. Merwin read "End of a Day" (requires the RealAudio RealPlayer).


In the long evening of April through the cool light
     Bayle's two sheep dogs sail down the lane like magpies
for the flock a moment before he appears near the oaks
     a stub of a man rolling as he approaches
smiling and smiling and his dogs are afraid of him
     we stand among the radiant stones looking out over
green lucent wheat and earth combed red under bare walnut limbs
     bees hanging late in cowslips and lingering bird cherry
stumps and brush that were the grove of hazel trees
     where the land turns above the draped slopes and the valley
filled with its one sunbeam and we exchange a few questions
     as though nothing were different but he has bulldozed the upland
pastures and the shepherds' huts into piles of rubble
     and has his sheep fenced in everyone's meadows now
the smell of box and damp leaves drifts from the woods where a blackbird
     is warning of nightfall Bayle has plans to demolish
the ancient walls of the lane and level it wide
     so that trucks can go all the way down to where the lambs
with perhaps two weeks to live are waiting for him at the wire
     he hurries toward them while the sun sinks and the hour
turns chill as iron and in the oaks the first nightingales
     of the year kindle their unapproachable voices

Copyright © 1994 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; September 1994; Three French Poems; Volume 274, No. 3; page 56.

m_nv_cv picture m_nv_un picture m_nv_am picture m_nv_pr picture m_nv_as picture m_nv_se picture