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By W. S. Merwin

Oh pile of white shirts who is coming

to breathe in your shapes to carry your numbers

to appear

what hearts

are moving toward their garments here

their days

what troubles beating between arms


you look upward through

each other saying nothing has happened

and it has gone away and is sleeping

having told the same story

and we exist from within

eyes of the gods


you lie on your backs

and the wounds are not made

the blood has not heard

the boat has not turned to stone

and the dark wires to the bulb

are full of the voice of the unborn


W. S. Merwin, “The Night of the Shirts” from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin. Reprinted with the permission of The Wylie Agency, Inc.

Source: The Second Four Books of Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 1993)

Poet Bio

W. S. Merwin
A prolific poet and translator, W.S. Merwin’s style changed over the years from traditional to free form. He won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize for his first book, A Mask for Janus, published in 1952, and the Pulitzer Prize for his 1970 collection The Carrier of Ladders. A prolific writer, he was the author of over 50 books of poetry, prose, and translations. Merwin lived Hawaii for the last 40 years of his life; he was a devoted environmentalist and many of his poems take up ecological themes. He was appointed Poet Laureate of the United States in 2010. He died in 2019. See More By This Poet

More By This Poet