Poetry Monday: “Empty Water” by W.S. Merwin

W.S. Merwin was last year’s Poet Laureate for the United States.  He’s been writing poetry and prose and winning prizes for it since the early 1950s.  This is my favorite detail from his biography on poetry.com: “Merwin, who is a practicing Buddhist as well as a proponent of deep ecology, has lived since the late 1970s on an old pineapple plantation in Hawaii which he has painstakingly restored to its original rainforest state.”  I love this because for me, Merwin’s love of wild things is completely contagious.  When I read his collection “The Rain in the Trees” a few years ago, I remember feeling like I wanted to go outside all the time.  This poem is one of my favorites.

Empty Water

by W.S. Merwin

I miss the toad
who came all summer
to the limestone
water basin
under the Christmasberry tree
imported in 1912
from Brazil for decoration
then a weed on a mule track
on a losing
pineapple plantation
now an old tree in a line
of old trees
the toad came at night
first and sat in the water
all night and all day
then sometimes at night
left for an outing
but was back in the morning
under the branches among
the ferns the green sword leaf
of the lily
sitting in the water
all the dry months
gazing at the sky
through those eyes
fashioned of the most
precious of metals
come back
believer in shade
believer in silence and elegance
believer in ferns
believer in patience
believer in the rain

—W.S. Merwin, from The Rain in the Trees, 1988


2 responses to “Poetry Monday: “Empty Water” by W.S. Merwin

  1. SteveP August 15, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    He is coming to BYU this Fall. I can’t wait.

  2. bettyjo August 16, 2011 at 8:57 am

    lovely poem. I feel the cool of shade and water
    just thinking about it.

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