In one breath I wake


When you go away

by W.S. Merwin ’48

When you go away the wind clicks around to the north
The painters work all day but at sundown the paint falls
Showing the black walls
The clock goes back to striking the same hour
That has no place in the years

And at night wrapped in the bed of ashes
In one breath I wake
It is the time when the beards of the dead get their growth
I remember that I am falling
That I am the reason
And that my words are the garment of what I shall never be
Like the tucked sleeve of a one-armed boy


In 2009, W.S. Merwin, who graduated from Princeton in 1948, became one of only eight poets ever to win the Pulitzer Prize more than once. Merwin has said he felt like a “misfit” at Princeton, where he studied with R.P. Blackmur and John Berryman.

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