“For a Coming Extinction” (W.S. Merwin)

For a Coming Extinction

Gray whale Now that we are sinding you to The End That great god Tell him That we who follow you invented forgiveness And forgive nothing

I write as though you could understand And I could say it One must always pretend something Among the dying When you have left the seas nodding on their stalks Empty of you Tell him that we were made On another day

The bewilderment will diminish like an echo Winding along your inner mountains Unheard by us And find its way out Leaving behind it the future Dead And ours

When you will not see again The whale calves trying the light Consider what you will find in the black garden And its court The sea cows the Great Auks the gorillas The irreplaceable hosts ranged countless And fore-ordaining as stars Our sacrifices Join your work to theirs Tell him That it is we who are important

[W.S. Merwin]

See also: This imminent extinction. More: Right whales written off. "It is we who are important.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on ““For a Coming Extinction” (W.S. Merwin)”


    Tender shadows of twin butterflies
    on the window a mourning dove bends
    to sip from the bird bath looks around
    when I cough can’t see me flies off

    the mystery of the two headless birds
    I found yesterday one in the backyard
    one in front a sparrow and a mocking
    bird still bleeding still unsolved

    the names blur the eyes forget
    there’s a stumbling of the light
    into the wall I hear the body fall

    a crashing through leaves from
    where I sit it looks like me
    a forest dying through fog is all.

  2. Fantastic choice here, Joe. Insightful and poetic (duh, you’re a poet). It’s time (IMHO) for the whale to make room for the other. Yes, we can!!!

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