On the Subject of Poetry
I do not understand the world, Father.
By the millpond at the end of the garden
There is a man who slouches listening
To the wheel revolving in the stream, only
There is no wheel there to revolve.
He sits in the end of March, but he sits also
In the end of the garden; his hands are in
His pockets. It is not expectation
On which he is intent, nor yesterday
To which he listens. It is a wheel turning.
When I speak, Father, it is the world
That I must mention. He does not move
His feet nor so much as raise his head
For fear he should disturb the sound he hears
Like a pain without a cry, where he listens.
I do not think I am fond, Father,
Of the way in which always before he listens
He prepares himself by listening. It is
Unequal, Father, like the reason
For which the wheel turns, though there is no wheel.
I speak of him, Father, because he is
There with his hands in his pockets, in the end
Of the garden listening to the turning
Wheel that is not there, but it is the world,
Father, that I do not understand.
W. S. Merwin (born 1927)
Catching up one poetry-related news from the last few weeks, W. S. Merwin was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry for The Shadow of Sirius, which I assume is a collection of poetry inspired by Harry Potter. It was his second Pulitzer; the first was for his 1970 collection The Carrier of Ladders. This poem predates both; it's from one of his first four books of poems.