To the New Year by W.S. Merwin


What a year it has been. I don’t think I have words for it just yet—I’m still trying to catch up with myself, still trying to get every last bit of feeling, the way I’d wring water out of clothes. I thought I’d come to the end with more clarity, but I think I’m still as uncertain as ever, but then again, that has always been me, hasn’t it.

What do I say, at the end of all things? Can I tell you instead that I stood under the night sky with my palms up above my head, and if I was reaching for the moon or some unnamed power, or merely stretching my arms tired from holding the weight of the world, or shuffling along with my two left feet and calling it dancing, oh, how was I to know which one. Each one felt good, unfolding in its own way.

I go to the beginning with pockets empty. Maybe what is possible is enough.

To the New Year
W.S. Merwin

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible.


This poem appeared in Present Company: Poems by W. S. Merwin, published in Copper Canyon Press, 2005. Shared here with profound gratitude.

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