The boy walked on with a flock of cranes
following him calling as they came
from the horizon behind him
sometimes he thought he could recognize
a voice in all that calling but he
could not hear what they were calling
and when he looked back he could not tell
one of them from another in their
rising and falling but he went on
trying to remember something in
their calls until he stumbled and came
to himself with the day before him
wide open and the stones of the path
lying still and each tree in its own leaves
the cranes were gone from the sky and at
that moment he remembered who he was
only he had forgotten his name
by W.S. Merwin
© W.S. Merwin, 2009
W.S. Merwin has been the recipient of many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, the Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Bollingen Award. He has also received fellowships from the Rockefeller and the Guggenheim foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. He is the author of many books of poetry and prose. He and his wife Paula live in Hawaii, where he has lived for more than thirty years. You can learn more about Merwin here and here.
Merwin’s most recent collection, Shadow of Sirius (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), from which this poem is taken, won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. “I have only what I remember,” Merwin admits, and his memories are focused and profound — Pennsylvania miners and neighborhood streetcars, a conversation with a boyhood teacher or deceased parent, the distinct qualities of autumnal light and gentle rain, well-cultivated loves, and “our long evenings and astonishment.” From the universe’s contradictions, Merwin calls upon the unexpected to illuminate existence. Read more from the collection here.
Copper Canyon Press is a non-profit publisher that believes poetry is vital to language and living. For thirty-five years, the Press has fostered the work of emerging, established, and world-renowned poets for an expanding audience. To find out more about Copper Canyon and its publications, click here.
Please note that this is the last of the weekly poems for this academic year. We do hope that you have enjoyed this year’s selections, and thank you for your continued support of the Poetry Centre through your subscription to the weekly poem service. The service will recommence in September. Have a very pleasant summer!
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