IKE | New Poet Laureate
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New Poet Laureate

W.S. Merwin

New Poet Laureate

Congratulations to W.S. Merwin who was named the new Poet Laureate today. He succeeds Kay Ryan. Mr. Merwin is a very deserving recipient of the honor, having won two Pultizer Prizes and a National Book Award.

Below is one of my favorite poems. I get very emotional every time I read it – thinking about my own father and the words left unsaid between us. My dad died in 2003 from colon cancer. I miss him a lot.

Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time

he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

From “Opening the Hand,” by W. S. Merwin, published by Atheneum.
Copyright 1983 by W. S. Merwin.

Have you called your parents recently?

David Isaacson
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