Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

W.S. Merwin: Another River

The friends have gone home far up the valley
of that river into whose estuary
the man from England sailed in his own age
in time to catch sight of the late forests
furring in black the remotest edges
of the majestic water always it
appeared to me that he arrived just as
an evening was beginning and toward the end
of summer when the converging surface
lay as a single vast mirror gazing
upward into the pearl light that was
already stained with the first saffron
of sunset on which the high wavering trails
of migrant birds flowed southward as though there were
no end to them the wind had dropped and the tide
and the current for a moment seemed to hang
still in balance and the creaking and knocking
of wood stopped all at once and the known voices
died away and the smells and rocking
and starvation of the voyage had become
a sleep behind them as they lay becalmed
on the reflection of their Half Moon
while the sky blazed and then the tide lifted them
up the dark passage they had no name for


From Migration: New and Selected Poems by W.S. Merwin (Copper Canyon, 2007). Included in Vox Populi for educational use only.

2 comments on “W.S. Merwin: Another River

  1. pyenser
    November 1, 2020

    Even Wildflowers Witness W. S. Merwin’s world

    “If only they would return, they would bring me happiness”
    —Ou-Yang Hsiu

    i.
    I have Maui postcards awash in blue waves of
    disappearing ink
    from young poet E.H. who tended your garden
    in a wild spot named
    not for any One but for ancient poetry
    and for loss—Haiʻku.

    ii.
    Global warnings, hurricanes of loss, and now you
    —W.S. Merwin—
    you who mulched dead pineapple plants into poems
    reclaiming dead soil
    by fetching pails of bark compost and dishwater
    as your dogs observed.

    iii.
    Hurricane palms and wild acanthus are now saved
    by conservancy.
    Conversational poems survive as orchids
    of differing scents
    invisible contrails you once walked “hand in hand”
    you said, “with myself.”

    iv.
    Let us do the rest: resolve down-to-earth matters,
    take up pen and plow
    in equal measure, rhyme and reason hand in glove,
    smiling as you count:
    “Three thousand palms! Four hundred species!”

    v.
    On Pe’ahi Streambed, with the palms of your hands
    you rescued Eden.
    Let saxifrage, wild plantain, and parakeet plants
    become bedfellows,
    golden plovers cry, rain drums on your dōjō den.
    Wildflowers break rock.
    In peace, pyenser

    Liked by 1 person

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This entry was posted on November 1, 2020 by in Environmentalism, Opinion Leaders, Poetry, spirituality and tagged , , .

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