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Best Famous W S Merwin Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous W S Merwin poems. This is a select list of the best famous W S Merwin poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous W S Merwin poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of W S Merwin poems.

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by W S Merwin | |

Death Hand

Temptations still nest in it like basilisks.
Hang it up till the rings fall.


by W S Merwin | |

Air

Naturally it is night.
Under the overturned lute with its One string I am going my way Which has a strange sound.
This way the dust that way the dust.
I listen to both sides But I keep right on.
I remember the leaves sitting in judgment And then winter.
I remember the rain with its bundles of roads.
The rain taking all its roads.
Nowhere.
Young as I am old as I am I forget tomorrow the blind man.
I forget the life among the buried windows.
The eyes in the curtains.
The wall Growing through the immortelles.
I forget silence The owner of the smile.
This must be what I wanted to be doing Walking at night between the two deserts Singing.


by W S Merwin | |

We continue

For Galway Kinnell


The rust a little pile of western color lies
At the end of its travels 
Our instrument no longer.
Those who believe In death have their worship cut out for them.
As for myself we Continue An old Scar of light our trumpet Pilgrims with thorns To the eye of the cold Under flags made by the blind In one fist Their letter that vanishes If the hand opens: Charity come home Begin.


More great poems below...

by W S Merwin | |

For the Anniversary of My Death

Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And then shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what


by W S Merwin | |

Do Not Die

In each world they may put us
Farther apart
Do not die
As this world is made I might
Live forever


by W S Merwin | |

Animula

Look soul
soul
barefoot presence
through whom blood falls as though
a water clock
and tears rise before they wake
I will take you

at last to
where the wind stops
by the river we
know
by that same water
and the nights are not separate
remember


by W S Merwin | |

A Door

This is a place where a door might be
here where I am standing
In the light outside all the walls

there would be a shadow here
all day long
and a door into it
where now there is me

and somebody would come and knock
on this air
long after I have gone
and there in front of me a life
would open


by W S Merwin | |

The Falcons

There were years when I knew
the flower in the red stone walls

now in the courtyard where I have returned with you
we drink the wine of visitors
the temperature of the cellars

dusk is welling
out of the dried blood of the masonry
no hour remains on the sundial
by now the owls of the tower corners
are waking on their keepers' fists
but it is still day
out in the air
and three falcons appear there
over the courtyard

no feathers on heads or breasts
and they fly down to us
to our wrists and between them
then hover and perch just above us
keeping us in sight
waiting
they are waiting for us

this time they will come with us
when we leave the island
tonight for the rest of our lives


by W S Merwin | |

A Family

Would you believe me
if I told you the name of the farmers
at the end of the lake
where it grew shallow over the mossy rocks
and if you came in the morning the grass was blue
the fur of the rocks was wet the small frogs jumped
and the lake was silent behind you
except for echoes

you tied your boat carefully to a tree
before setting out across the cool pasture
watching for the bull
all the way to the barn

or if you came in the afternoon
the pasture glared and hummed the dark leaves smelled
from beside the water and the barn was drunk
by the time you got to it

to climb on the beams
to dive into the distant hay
will you believe
the names of the farmers' children


by W S Merwin | |

Son

As the shadow closed on the face once my father's
Three times learning forward far off she called
Good night in a whisper from before I was born
later through the burial a wren went on singing

then it was that I left for the coast to live
a single long mountain close to the shore
from it the sun rose and everyone there asked me
who I was I asked them who they were

at that time I found the cave under the mountain
drawings still on the walls carved fragments in the dirt
all my days I spent there groping in the floor

but some who came from nearby were wrecking the place for a game
garbage through holes overhead broken cars dead animals
in the evenings they rolled huge rocks down to smash the roof
nothing that I could do kept them from it for long

the old story the old story

and in the morning the cave full of new daylight


by W S Merwin | |

The Source

 The sleep that flits on baby's eyes-does anybody know from where
it comes? Yes, there is a rumour that it has its dwelling where,
in the fairy village among shadows of the forest dimly lit with
glow-worms, there hang two shy buds of enchantment.
From there it comes to kiss baby's eyes.
The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps-does anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumour that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born in the dream of a dew washed morning-the smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps.
The sweet, soft freshness hat blooms on baby's limbs-does anybody know where it was hidden so long? Yes, when the mother was a young girl it lay pervading her heart in tender and silent mystery of love-the sweet, soft freshness that has bloomed on baby's limbs.


by W S Merwin | |

It Is March

 It is March and black dust falls out of the books
Soon I will be gone
The tall spirit who lodged here has
Left already
On the avenues the colorless thread lies under
Old prices

When you look back there is always the past
Even when it has vanished
But when you look forward
With your dirty knuckles and the wingless
Bird on your shoulder
What can you write

The bitterness is still rising in the old mines
The fist is coming out of the egg
The thermometers out of the mouths of the corpses

At a certain height
The tails of the kites for a moment are
Covered with footsteps

Whatever I have to do has not yet begun


by W S Merwin | |

Whenever I Go There

 Whenever I go there everything is changed

The stamps on the bandages the titles
Of the professors of water

The portrait of Glare the reasons for
The white mourning

In new rocks new insects are sitting
With the lights off
And once more I remember that the beginning

Is broken

No wonder the addresses are torn

To which I make my way eating the silence of animals
Offering snow to the darkness

Today belongs to few and tomorrow to no one


by W S Merwin | |

Unknown Bird

 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


by W S Merwin | |

When You Go Away

 When you go away the wind clicks around to the north
The painters work all day but at sundown the paint falls
Showing the black walls
The clock goes back to striking the same hour
That has no place in the years

And at night wrapped in the bed of ashes
In one breath I wake
It is the time when the beards of the dead get their growth
I remember that I am falling
That I am the reason
And that my words are the garment of what I shall never be
Like the tucked sleeve of a one-armed boy


by W S Merwin | |

Any Time

 How long ago the day is
when at last I look at it
with the time it has taken
to be there still in it
now in the transparent light
with the flight in the voices
the beginning in the leaves
everything I remember
and before it before me
present at the speed of light
in the distance that I am
who keep reaching out to it
seeing all the time faster
where it has never stirred from
before there is anything
the darkness thinking the light


by W S Merwin | |

The River Of Bees

 In a dream I returned to the river of bees
Five orange trees by the bridge and
Beside two mills my house
Into whose courtyard a blind man followed
The goats and stood singing
Of what was older

Soon it will be fifteen years

He was old he will have fallen into his eyes

I took my eyes
A long way to the calenders
Room after room asking how shall I live

One of the ends is made of streets
One man processions carry through it
Empty bottles their
Images of hope
It was offered to me by name

Once once and once
In the same city I was born
Asking what shall I say

He will have fallen into his mouth
Men think they are better than grass

I return to his voice rising like a forkful of hay

He was old he is not real nothing is real
Nor the noise of death drawing water

We are the echo of the future

On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live


by W S Merwin | |

Wish

 The star in my
Hand is falling

All the uniforms know what's no use

May I bow to Necessity not
To her hirelings


by W S Merwin | |

The Speed Of Light

 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


by W S Merwin | |

For A Coming Extinction

 Gray whale
Now that we are sinding you to The End
That great god
Tell him
That we who follow you invented forgiveness
And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand
And I could say it
One must always pretend something
Among the dying
When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks
Empty of you
Tell him that we were made
On another day

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo
Winding along your inner mountains
Unheard by us
And find its way out
Leaving behind it the future
Dead
And ours

When you will not see again
The whale calves trying the light
Consider what you will find in the black garden
And its court
The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas
The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless
And fore-ordaining as stars
Our sacrifices
Join your work to theirs
Tell him
That it is we who are important


by W S Merwin | |

Before The Flood

 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


by W S Merwin | |

The Source

 There in the fringe of trees between
the upper field and the edge of the one
below it that runs above the valley
one time I heard in the early
days of summer the clear ringing
six notes that I knew were the opening
of the Fingal's Cave Overture
I heard them again and again that year
and the next summer and the year
afterward those six descending
notes the same for all the changing
in my own life since the last time
I had heard them fall past me from
the bright air in the morning of a bird
and I believed that what I had heard
would always be there if I came again
to be overtaken by that season
in that place after the winter
and I would wonder again whether
Mendelssohn really had heard them somewhere
far to the north that many years ago
looking up from his youth to listen to
those six notes of an ancestor
spilling over from a presence neither
water nor human that led to the cave
in his mind the fluted cliffs and the wave
going out and the falling water
he thought those notes could be the music for
Mendelssohn is gone and Fingal is gone
all but his name for a cave and for one
piece of music and the black-capped warbler
as we called that bird that I remember
singing there those notes descending
from the age of the ice dripping
I have not heard again this year can it
be gone then will I not hear it
from now on will the overture begin
for a time and all those who listen
feel that falling in them but as always
without knowing what they recognize


by W S Merwin | |

Some Last Questions

 What is the head
 A.
Ash What are the eyes A.
The wells have fallen in and have Inhabitants What are the feet A.
Thumbs left after the auction No what are the feet A.
Under them the impossible road is moving Down which the broken necked mice push Balls of blood with their noses What is the tongue A.
The black coat that fell off the wall With sleeves trying to say something What are the hands A.
Paid No what are the hands A.
Climbing back down the museum wall To their ancestors the extinct shrews that will Have left a message What is the silence A.
As though it had a right to move Who are the compatriots A.
They make the stars of bone


by W S Merwin | |

December Night

 The cold slope is standing in darkness
But the south of the trees is dry to the touch

The heavy limbs climb into the moonlight bearing feathers
I came to watch these
White plants older at night
The oldest
Come first to the ruins

And I hear magpies kept awake by the moon
The water flows through its
Own fingers without end

Tonight once more
I find a single prayer and it is not for men


by W S Merwin | |

Vehicles

 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