To the Blank Spaces

By W. S. Merwin b. 1927
For longer than by now I can believe
I assumed that you had nothing to do
with each other I thought you had arrived
                  whenever that had been

more solitary than single snowflakes
with no acquaintance or understanding
running among you guiding your footsteps
                  somewhere ahead of me

in your own time oh white lakes on the maps
that I copied and gaps on the paper
for the names that were to appear in them
                  sometimes a doorway or

window sometimes an eye sometimes waking
without knowing the place in the whole night
I might have guessed from the order in which
                  you turned up before me

and from the way I kept looking at you
as though I recognized something in you
that you were all words out of one language
                  tracks of the same creature

Source: Poetry (October 2002).


This poem originally appeared in the October 2002 issue of Poetry magazine

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October 2002
 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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SUBJECT Poetry & Poets, Reading & Books, Arts & Sciences


Poetic Terms Syllabic, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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