To Luck

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
In the cards and at the bend in the road   
we never saw you   
in the womb and in the crossfire   
in the numbers   
whatever you had your hand in   
which was everything   
we were told never to put   
our faith in you   
to bow to you humbly after all   
because in the end there was nothing   
else we could do   
but not to believe in you   

still we might coax you with pebbles   
kept warm in the hand   
or coins or the relics   
of vanished animals   
observances rituals   
not binding upon you   
who make no promises   
we might do such things only   
not to neglect you   
and risk your disfavor   
oh you who are never the same   
who are secret as the day when it comes   
you whom we explain   
as often as we can   
without understanding

Source: Poetry (December 2001).

 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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