My friend says I was not a good son
I say yes I understand
he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know
even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes
he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father
he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me
oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me
oh yes I say
but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
just because I’m here
I say nothing
he says my father
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you
I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do
-W.S. Merwin, Opening the Hand, 1983.
William Stanley Merwin of New York City, New York died in his sleep three days ago at his home in Hawaii.
Machado cares enough to try to explain to you how it is to be a poet; to be the poet he had to become. Poets fill all the roles of other human beings but their hearts and senses –the walled garden of their memories– are engineered differently than their neighbors, for it is to a unique purpose they are made.
My childhood is memories of a patio in Seville,
and a sunny orchard where lemons ripen;
my youth, twenty years on the soil of Castile;
my story, a few events just as well forgotten.
I was never a great seducer or Romeo
—that is apparent by my shabby dress—
but I was struck by the arrow Cupid aimed at me
and loved whenever I was welcomed.
Despite the rebel blood in my veins,
my poems bubble up from a calm spring;
and more than a man who lives by rules
I am, in the best sense of the word, good.
I adore beauty and following modern aesthetics,
I’ve cut old roses from Ronsard’s garden;
but I hate being fashionable
and am no bird strutting the latest style.
I shun the shallow tenor’s ballads,
and the chorus of crickets singing at the moon;
I stop to separate the voices from the echoes,
and I listen among the voices to only one.
Am I classical or romantic? I don’t know?
I want to leave my poetry as the captain leaves his sword;
remembered for the virile hand that gripped it,
not for the hallmark of its maker.
I converse with the man who is always beside me,
—he who talks to himself hopes to talk to God someday—
my soliloquy is a discussion with this friend,
who taught me the secret of loving others.
In the end I owe you nothing; you owe me all I’ve written.
I work, paying with what I’ve earned
for the clothes on my back, the house I live in,
the bread that sustains me and the bed where I lie.
And when the day arrives for the final voyage
and the ship that never returns is set to sail,
you’ll find me aboard, traveling light, with few possessions,
almost naked, like the children of the sea.
i sing of Olaf glad and big
whose warmest heart recoiled at war:
a conscientious object-or
his wellbelovéd colonel(trig
westpointer most succinctly bred)
took erring Olaf soon in hand;
but–though an host of overjoyed
noncoms(first knocking on the head
him)do through icy waters roll
that helplessness which others stroke
with brushes recently employed
anent this muddy toiletbowl,
while kindred intellects evoke
allegiance per blunt instruments–
Olaf(being to all intents
a corpse and wanting any rag
upon what God unto him gave)
responds,without getting annoyed
“I will not kiss your fucking flag”
straightway the silver bird looked grave
(departing hurriedly to shave)
but–though all kinds of officers
(a yearning nation’s blueeyed pride)
their passive prey did kick and curse
until for wear their clarion
voices and boots were much the worse,
and egged the firstclassprivates on
his rectum wickedly to tease
by means of skilfully applied
bayonets roasted hot with heat–
Olaf(upon what were once knees)
does almost ceaselessly repeat
“there is some shit I will not eat”
our president,being of which
assertions duly notified
threw the yellowsonofabitch
into a dungeon,where he died
Christ(of His mercy infinite)
i pray to see;and Olaf,too
unless statistics lie he was
more brave than me:more blond than you.
Cold and without wood
in mist too thick to gather;
The sun awakens
to dance among your facets.
The moon, smiling, fades.