An open access publication of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences
Summer 2005

To the present tense

W. S. Merwin
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W. S. Merwin is the author of more than fifteen books of poetry, including “The Carrier of Ladders” (1970), which received the Pulitzer Prize,“Flower and Hand: Poems 1977–1983” (1997), “The River Sound” (1999), and “Migration: New and Selected Poems” (2005). He has also published nearly twenty books of translation, including Dante’s “Purgatorio” (2000), numerous plays, and four books of prose. He is a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

To the present tense

By the time you are
by the time you come to be
by the time you read this
by the time you are written
by the time you forget
by the time you are water through fingers
by the time you are taken for granted
by the time it hurts
by the time it goes on hurting
by the time there are no words for you
by the time you remember
but without the names
by the time you are in the papers
and on the telephone
passing unnoticed there too

who is it
to whom you come
before whose very eyes
you are disappearing
without making yourself known