Poem-a-Day Friday: WS Merwin (again) and Death


I’m now in Amarillo, my hometown. We got here on the 4th and it will be homebase for the boys and me over the next couple of weeks. My 90-year-old grandfather, whom I’ve written about here and here, had a stroke on Tuesday, the day before we got here. It’s been a gift that I had already planned to be here in town and that I’ve been able to see him. Yesterday he was able make words again and especially able to receive kisses, which I gave readily.

Pawpaw and I had a short conversation about death and Home last night and I can’t stop thinking about it. So I found myself a Merwin poem for us today.

I love this poem. I’m fascinated by the backwards idea of having passed the anniversary of my death over and over all life long. It’s such a beautiful idea.


For the Anniversary of My Death


Every year without knowing it I have passed the day
When the last fires will wave to me
And the silence will set out
Tireless traveler
Like the beam of a lightless star

Then I will no longer
Find myself in life as in a strange garment
Surprised at the earth
And the love of one woman
And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain
Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease
And bowing not knowing to what

W. S. Merwin, “For the Anniversary of My Death” from The Second Four Books of Poems (Port Townsend, Washington: Copper Canyon Press, 1993). Copyright © 1993 by W. S. Merwin.