20 July 2014

The white keys that have no song of their own


                                 by W. S. Merwin

O Silent Hands

Hands born of silence hands of silence
hands born of darkness hands of darkness
left hand of silence right hand of silence
hands of darkness in clear daylight
fingers of fire without sound or brightness
silent hands that bring music to pass
and it goes on echoing day and night
silent fingers' touch on the strings
or on the white keys that have no song of their own
finger ends commanding the dark openings in the flute
and it takes up its song of distance
the music touches the waiting darness of the heart
touches it once and without recognizing it
and the silent heart welcomes the song home

The Laughing Child

When she looked down from the kitchen window
into the back yard and the brown wicker
baby carriage in which she had tucked me
three months old to lie out in the fresh air
of my first January the carriage
was shaking she said and went on shaking
and she saw I was lying there and laughing
she told me about it later it was
something that reassured her in a life
in which she had lost everyone she loved
before I was born and she had begun
to believe that she might be able to
keep me as I lay there in the winter
laughing it was what she was thinking of
later when she told me that I had been
a happy child and she must have kept that
through the gray cloud of all her days and now
out of the horn of dreams of my own life
I wake again into the laughing child.

The Mapmaker

Vermeer's geographer goes on looking
out of the window at a world that he
alone sees while in the room around him
the light has not moved as the centuries
have revolved in silence behind their clouds
beyond the leaves the seasons the numbers
he has not seen them out of that window
the world he sees is there as we see him
looking out at the light beyond the window

Under the Tree of Idleness

This is where I was going the whole time
when they thought I was lost and were looking
for me everywhere I was right here
but as look as they were looking for me
they walked past and never laid eyes on me
it was only when one stumbled on me
by accident that I seemed to have been
found for a moment before I was gone
again following shadows on the leaves
of the oldest limb where they might never
have been noticed but I watched them as though
I was remembering after a long
time without seeing them although that had been
no time in the life of the tree where I
had heard far away a voice calling to
someone and asking what are you doing

until I answered to call it nothing

From "Nine Poems," The American Poetry Review July/August 2014.

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