Sunday, December 1, 2013

W. S. Merwin: Late Autumn poem

Photo by Alice Popkorn

Crows on the North Slope

When the Gentle were dead these inherited their coats
Now they gather in late autumn and quarrel over the air
Demanding something for their shadows that are naked
And silent and learning
W. S. Merwin

The mystery is here - who, for instance, are the Gentle - and over 45 years later followers of Merwin know he tills the same soul, while Nature calls the tune. This time of year, as the sun has edged over the horizon I can see for the entire two miles, and beyond, that I walk home from work, the evening movement of, I'm told, up to 16,000 crows every evening across the greater Pittsburgh environs. 

If you've never been to Pittsburgh, it is startling to realize how perfectly integrated this mid-size American city is with the natural environment. It would take a lot shorter period of time than most American cities to revert back to its original condition if, for instance, the much lauded Pittsburgh zombie apocalypse ever came to be.

I ran across this poem in an early volume of Merwin's work, entitled Animae, which I found in one of great local used and rare booksellers, Caliban Books. A volume full of wonder. 


with our gods out of town
they raise a ruckus...
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Andrea Grillo said...

Enjoyed this. As a woman "of a certain age" lol I am very much amused by the "zombie apocalypse" stuff and had to smile at the idea that it is even localized i.e. Pittsburgh has its own version. Anyway it dove-tails with or should I say "crows" to Merwin's vision so aptly. And once again, I am amazed at Issa's range and your choices.
I can only imagine what a 'NJ apocalypse' looks like, however I can hear Springsteen doing the music... or has he already? Thanks Don.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Thanks so much. Pittsburgh claims to be the birthplace of the modern zombie phenomenon due to the filming here of "Night of the Living Dead" by local native, George Romero (in a nice twist, I work with his nephew - good ol' Uncle George).

Bruce has, indeed, done the soundtrack to the NJ apocalypse - "Jungleland," which was used as an epigraph to Stephen King's monumental apocalypse novel, "The Stand," which took its name from a line in the song:

"As we take our stand
Down in Jungleland."

But, somehow, I'm thinking you may have known this already.


Gillena Cox said...

very interesting Sunday sample and i truly luv the Issa you chose for this week

much love...

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Gillena, thanks, so glad you liked this weeks selections, particularly the Issa. Don