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A Poem by W. S. Merwin: ‘To Age’

The poet W. S. Merwin was—like many people, maybe—preoccupied along with his personal mortality. He wrote about it typically, most famously in “For the Anniversary of My Dying”: “Yearly with out understanding it I’ve handed the day / When the final fires will wave to me / And the silence will set out.” However loads of his works that appear to take care of the tip of life are actually about aliveness. They don’t ponder the method of dying or what comes after it; they mirror on what shall be misplaced when our time is up. In “Anniversary,” Merwin continues: “Then I’ll now not / Discover myself in life as in an odd garment / Shocked on the earth / And the love of 1 lady / And the shamelessness of males.” Dying issues, he makes clear, solely as a result of it ends the life we cherish. In his poetry, he holds that life as much as the sunshine, turning it round with gentleness and love and curiosity.

In “To Age,” Merwin compares the sensation of years passing to a baby’s expertise of searching of the again automobile window, watching photographs rush into view after which recede into the space. The metaphor is placing. It not solely conveys the disorienting slipperiness of time—which appears to maneuver freely whereas the one experiencing it stays nonetheless—but in addition implies a wide-eyed fondness for the world glimpsed by means of the window, which in some way grows much less consequential and likewise extra treasured because it disappears. As steadily as he revisited the topic of human existence earlier than he died in 2019, Merwin by no means overpassed its important thriller, or the pleasure and privilege in learning all of it the identical.

A pdf of the original Atlantic page, with collaged photos of a car driving on a highway and mountains in the distance

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