weekend-readsHomecoming; From the Gray Legends; Before Midsummer above the River Again; By the Front Door

W. S. Merwin

Homecoming

Once only when the summer
was nearly over and my own
hair had been white as the day’s clouds
for more years than I was counting
I stood by the garden at evening
Paula was still weeding around
flowers that open after dark
and I looked up to the clear sky
and saw the new moon and at that
moment from behind me a band
of dark birds and then another
after it flying in silence
long curving wings hardly moving
the plovers just in from the sea
and the flight clear from Alaska
half their weight gone to get them home
but home now arriving without
a sound as it rose to meet them

From the Gray Legends

Arachne wove the gray before daylight

from beyond the screen of fronds
before the birds before words
before the first stories
before voices

before Minerva’s eyes were made
of that same gray

Arachne had her own beauty
seen or unseen
and she was older
she was already who she was

then it was day
and Minerva wove in the daylight
from daylight
and she knew where the threads
were going in their stories
some of them
some of the time
and she claimed that she always knew

Arachne claimed nothing

Arachne did not have to know
she could wait
even when she was forgotten
and she could wait to be forgotten

Minerva kept seeing Arachne’s weaving
waiting in the daylight
with the daylight passing through it
the weaving reminded Minerva of something
she could not see there
that she could not remember

Arachne’s weaving
even where it was broken
was always perfect
with a perfection that Minerva
could not trace nor imitate

her own wisdom laughed at her
and she was angry
what could she do to Arachne
who could weave the gray before daylight

she started the story
about a contest between them
which she won
weaving daylight
and then what could she do
to Arachne to obliterate her
to forget her
as though she had never existed
all day in Minerva’s own mind
in her own weaving in her own dream
she could not imagine a way
to unmake Arachne
all night her own bird answered only
Who

the bird knew
she could not change Arachne
into anything but Arachne

in the gray before day
wherever Minerva’s gray eyes turned
she saw Arachne’s weaving

Before Midsummer above the River Again

Unseen words
thoughts of words
circle the empty room
where I was young
stars in daytime
that old

not a sound from them
not one question
they know me
in their unseen galaxy
they are my own

the walls that were
whitewashed in another age
have turned into
maps of shadows
through half my life
and more

my dog three years gone
and more
oh more
barks in a dream
beside my left hand
watchful as ever
waking me
from that dream
where is she

where am I

By the Front Door

Rain through the morning
and in the long pool an old toad singing
happiness old as water

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