The Night of the Shirts

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
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)

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Poet W. S. Merwin b. 1927

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 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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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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