"For the Anniversary of My Death"

Explore W.S. Merwin's introspective poetry on life's fleeting nature with "For the Anniversary of My Death"—find profound insights into existence.

"For the Anniversary of My Death"
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W.S. Merwin served as the U.S. Poet Laureate, wrote over fifty books, and won two Pulitzers. He died in his sleep at age ninety-one. Here he writes, "For the Anniversary of My Death."
Each year, Merwin unknowingly passes the day that will mark his death, a day when "the last fires will wave" to him and the "silence will set out." Life has felt like a "strange garment" worn by the "tireless traveler." Death will bring the end of experiencing and surprise, but the traveler will persist like a "beam of a lightless star."
In a prior lesson, John Updike expanded from his morning orange juice into a cosmic contemplation of death. Here we begin with cosmic death and contract into a rainy day and a singing wren, the poet "bowing not knowing to what."
Every year without knowing it I have passed the day When the last fires will wave to me And the silence will set out Tireless traveler Like the beam of a lightless star
Then I will no longer Find myself in life as in a strange garment Surprised at the earth And the love of one woman And the shamelessness of men
As today writing after three days of rain Hearing the wren sing and the falling cease And bowing not knowing to what

Story From

W.S. Merwin Collection