Lit in Passing

Lit in Passing

By W.S. Merwin

(posted Wednesday, Nov. 25, 1998)

To hear the poet read “Lit in Passing,” click here.

In the first sound of their own feet
on the steps outside the empty
house they might have heard it under
the talk that day as it told them
in a language they pretended
not to understand a word of

here begins the hollow to come

presenting itself as a small
triumph before he turned forty
the big house twelve echoing rooms
thirty-six windows that would need
curtains my mother said at once
and the huge church across the street

everything to be done over
fresh and new at the beginning
in those first milk and honey days
even new stained glass windows made
downstairs on the long tables of
the church kitchen the webs of lead
and gray glass waiting for the light

they even made one at that time
for the house the manse the window
above the landing on the stairs
halfway up my mother never
liked it she did not explain why
there was a shield with a ruby
at the center a red point climbed
up the stairs through the afternoon
marked us as we went up and down

those last years we were together