The Asians Dying

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
When the forests have been destroyed their darkness remains   
The ash the great walker follows the possessors
Forever
Nothing they will come to is real
Nor for long
Over the watercourses
Like ducks in the time of the ducks
The ghosts of the villages trail in the sky
Making a new twilight

Rain falls into the open eyes of the dead   
Again again with its pointless sound
When the moon finds them they are the color of everything

The nights disappear like bruises but nothing is healed   
The dead go away like bruises
The blood vanishes into the poisoned farmlands   
Pain the horizon
Remains
Overhead the seasons rock
They are paper bells
Calling to nothing living

The possessors move everywhere under Death their star   
Like columns of smoke they advance into the shadows   
Like thin flames with no light
They with no past
And fire their only future

W. S. Merwin, “The Asians Dying” 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)

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Poet W. S. Merwin b. 1927

Subjects War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Death, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 W. S. Merwin

Biography

W.S. Merwin is a major American writer whose poetry, translations, and prose have won praise since W.H. Auden awarded his first book, A Mask for Janus (1952), the Yale Younger Poets Prize. Though that first book reflected the formalism of the period, Merwin eventually became known for an impersonal, open style that eschewed punctuation. Writing in the Guardian, Jay Parini described Merwin’s mature style as “his own kind of free . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT War & Conflict, Social Commentaries, Death, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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