William Stanley Merwin

(September 30, 1927 / New York / United States)

End of A Day


In the long evening of April through the cool light
Bayle's two sheep dogs sail down the lane like magpies
for the flock a moment before he appears near the oaks
a stub of a man rolling as he approaches
smiling and smiling and his dogs are afraid of him
we stand among the radiant stones looking out over
green lucent wheat and earth combed red under bare walnut limbs
bees hanging late in cowslips and lingering bird cherry
stumps and brush that were the grove of hazel trees
where the land turns above the draped slopes and the valley
filled with its one sunbeam and we exchange a few questions
as though nothing were different but he has bulldozed the upland
pastures and the shepherds' huts into piles of rubble
and has his sheep fenced in everyone's meadows now
the smell of box and damp leaves drifts from the woods where a blackbird
is warning of nightfall Bayle has plans to demolish
the ancient walls of the lane and level it wide
so that trucks can go all the way down to where the lambs
with perhaps two weeks to live are waiting for him at the wire
he hurries toward them while the sun sinks and the hour
turns chill as iron and in the oaks the first nightingales
of the year kindle their unapproachable voices

Submitted: Monday, May 09, 2011
Edited: Monday, May 09, 2011

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  • Rookie - 19 Points Michael Hogan (9/8/2013 7:20:00 AM)

    A powerful elegiac piece in which the property rights of a neighbor tear the soul
    out of the land. Moving to me because so understated and because of the helplessness
    of the narrator in the face of such thoughtless brutality. (Report) Reply

Read all 1 comments »

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