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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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Written by W S Merwin |

The Ships Are Made Ready In Silence

 Moored to the same ring:
The hour, the darkness and I,
Our compasses hooded like falcons.
Now the memory of you comes aching in With a wash of broken bits which never left port In which once we planned voyages, They come knocking like hearts asking: What departures on this tide? Breath of land, warm breath, You tighten the cold around the navel, Though all shores but the first have been foreign, And the first was not home until left behind.
Our choice is ours but we have not made it, Containing as it does, our destination Circled with loss as with coral, and A destination only until attained.
I have left you my hope to remember me by, Though now there is little resemblance.
At this moment I could believe in no change, The mast perpetually Vacillating between the same constellations, The night never withdrawing its dark virtue >From the harbor shaped as a heart, The sea pulsing as a heart, The sky vaulted as a heart, Where I know the light will shatter like a cry Above a discovery: "Emptiness.
Emptiness! Look!" Look.
This is the morning.

Written 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.

Written by W S Merwin |


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

More great poems below...

Written 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

Written 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

Written 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

Written 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

Written 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

Written by W S Merwin |

Beggars And Kings

 In the evening
all the hours that weren't used
are emptied out
and the beggars are waiting to gather them up
to open them
to find the sun in each one
and teach it its beggar's name
and sing to it It is well
through the night

but each of us
has his own kingdom of pains
and has not yet found them all
and is sailing in search of them day and night
infallible undisputed unresting
filled with a dumb use
and its time
like a finger in a world without hands

Written by W S Merwin |

The Burnt Child

 Matches among other things that were not allowed
never would be
lying high in a cool blue box
that opened in other hands and there they all were
bodies clean and smooth blue heads white crowns
white sandpaper on the sides of the box scoring
fire after fire gone before

I could hear the scratch and flare
when they were over
and catch the smell of the striking
I knew what the match would feel like
when I was very young

a fire engine came and parked
in the shadow of the big poplar tree
of Fourth Street one night
keeping its engine running
pumping oxygen to the old woman
in the basement
when she died the red lights went on burning

Written by W S Merwin |

Death Hand

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

Written by W S Merwin |


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.
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.

Written 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.

Written 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

Written by W S Merwin |


Look 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
by that same water
and the nights are not separate