The River of Bees

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
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 blindman 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 calendars
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
Image 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

W. S. Merwin, “The River of Bees” 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

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Subjects Growing Old, Death, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 W. S. Merwin

Biography

W.S. Merwin is a prolific, leading American writer whose poetry, translations, and prose have won praise over seven decades. His first book, A Mask for Janus (1952),  was chosen by W.H. Auden for 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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Death, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Western

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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