Some Last Questions

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
What is the head
                         a. Ash   
What are the eyes
                         a. The wells have fallen in and have   
What are the feet
                         a. Thumbs left after the auction
No what are the feet
                         a. Under them the impossible road is moving   
                              Down which the broken necked mice push   
                              Balls of blood with their noses
What is the tongue
                         a. The black coat that fell off the wall
                              With sleeves trying to say something
What are the hands
                         a. Paid
No what are the hands
                         a. Climbing back down the museum wall
                              To their ancestors the extinct shrews that will   
                              Have left a message
What is the silence
                        a. As though it had a right to more
Who are the compatriots
                        a. They make the stars of bone

W. S. Merwin, “Some Last Questions” 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: Poetry (September 1964).

 W. S. Merwin


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 The Body, Nature


Poetic Terms Imagery, Free Verse, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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