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W.S. Merwin was born in New York City in 1927. From 1949 to 1951 he worked as a tutor in France, Mallorca, and Portugal; for several years afterward he made the greater part of his living by translating from French, Spanish, Latin, and Portuguese. His many awards include the 2005 National Book Award in Poetry for Migration: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon, 2005), the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Tanning Prize for mastery in the art of poetry, the Bollingen Award, the Ruth Lily Poetry Prize, as well as fellowships from the Rockefeller and the Guggenheim Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of dozens of books of poetry and prose; his most recent volume of poems is Present Company (Copper Canyon, 2005). For the past thirty years he has lived in Hawaii.

The Nomad Flute
 
 
English version

The Nomad Flute

You that sang to me once sing to me now
let me hear your long lifted note
survive with me
the star is fading
I can think farther than that but I forget
do you hear me

do you still hear me
does your air
remember you
oh breath of morning
night song morning song
I have with me
all that I do not know
I have lost none of it

but I know better now
than to ask you
where you learned that music
where any of it came from
once there were lions in China

I will listen until the flute stops
and the light is old again

From Shadows of Sirius, to be published by Copper Canyon Press in
Fall 2008.
At The Bend
 
 
English version

At The Bend

I look for you my curl of sleep
my breathing wave on the night shore
my star in the fog of morning
I think you can always find me

I call to you under my breath
I whisper to you through the hours
all your names my ear of shadow
I think you can always hear me

I wait for you my promised day
my time again my homecoming
my being where you wait for me
I think always of you waiting

From Shadows of Sirius, to be published by Copper Canyon Press in
Fall 2008.
Ash
 
 
English version

Ash

The church in the forest
was built of wood

the faithful carved their names by the doors
same names as ours

soldiers burned it down

the next church where the first had stood
was built of wood

with charcoal floors
names were written in black by the doors
same names as ours

soldiers burned it down

we have a church where the others stood
itís made of ash
no roof no doors

nothing on earth
says itís ours

Reprinted with permission from Migration: New and Selected Poems by
W.S. Merwin. Copper Canyon Press, 2005.
Yesterday
 
 
English version

Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
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 but 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 fatherís 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 donít want you to feel that you
have to
just because Iím here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you sould be seeing
somebody I donít 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
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

Reprinted with permission from Migration: New and Selected Poems by
W.S. Merwin. Copper Canyon Press, 2005.