Contents | May 2001

In This Issue (Contributors)

Also by W. S. Merwin:
In the Open (2001)
Term (1999)
Unknown Bird (1999)
Any Time (1999)
Before the Flood (1998)
Shore Birds (1998)
Three Poems (1997)
Green Fields (1995)
Three French Poems (1994)

The Atlantic Monthly | May 2001
The Sleeper

by W. S. Merwin
On one of the last days of the installation in darkness
of the unlit procession that would continue its motionless march
to the end of the world and beyond it staring at nothing
after a ceremony during which mouths were opened
repeatedly but no words were shouted sung or spoken
the dog was carried into the tomb between two lines of bearers
followed by an orchestra holding silent instruments
and was lowered slowly into its far corner of that day's light
a sleeping dog not a guardian not a living dog
not a dog that had lived until then or had ever been born
a dog known from some life that would not be known again
the sculptor was the first in one file of bearers
and the sculptor's hand was the last to touch the figure
asleep in clay before they left it to its own sleep
and were blindfolded and turned around like planets and they groped
along the procession of horses chariots armor
to the light they remembered the smells of smoke and cooking
then voices dogs barking dogs running among houses the sculptor
watched dogs searching and knowing what they were looking for
dogs asleep seeing somewhere else while his eye was on them

Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights reserved. The Atlantic Monthly; May 2001; The Sleeper - 01.05; Volume 287, No. 5; page 50.