Poem introduction

One of the things that Empson told us a generation and a half ago, is that English thrives on ambiguity, the way that ferns make spores all over the place. A title such as 'In Time' is full of ambiguities.

In Time

In Time

The night the world was going to end
when we heard those explosions not far away
and the loudspeakers telling us
about the vast fires on the backwater
consuming undisclosed remnants
and warning us over and over
to stay indoors and make no signals
you stood at the open window
the light of one candle back in the room
we put on high boots to be ready
for wherever we might have to go
and we got out the oysters and sat
at the small table feeding them
to each other first with the fork
then from our mouths to each other
until there were none and we stood up
and started to dance without music
slowly we danced around and around
in circles and after a while we hummed
when the world was about to end
all those years all those nights ago

'In Time' from The Pupil. Copyright © 2001 by W. S. Merwin, used with permission of The Wylie Agency LLC.

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Books by WS Merwin