Good People

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
From the kindness of my parents   
I suppose it was that I held   
that belief about suffering   

imagining that if only   
it could come to the attention   
of any person with normal   
feelings certainly anyone   
literate who might have gone   

to college they would comprehend   
pain when it went on before them   
and would do something about it   
whenever they saw it happen   
in the time of pain the present   
they would try to stop the bleeding   
for example with their own hands   

but it escapes their attention   
or there may be reasons for it   
the victims under the blankets   
the meat counters the maimed children   
the animals the animals   
staring from the end of the world

Source: Poetry (December 1999).

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This poem originally appeared in the December 1999 issue of Poetry magazine

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December 1999
 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 Social Commentaries, War & Conflict

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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