Losing a Language

W.S. Merwin.

a breath leaves the sentences and does not come back

yet the old still remember something that they could say

 

but they know now that such things are no longer believed

and the young have fewer words

 

many of the things the words were about

no longer exist

 

the noun for standing in mist by a haunted tree

the verb for I

 

the children will not repeat

the phrases their parents speak

 

somebody has persuaded them

that it is better to say everything differently

 

so that they can be admired somewhere

farther and farther away

 

where nothing that is here is known

we have little to say to each other

 

we are wrong and dark

in the eyes of the new owners

 

the radio is incomprehensible

the day is glass

 

when there is a voice at the door it is foreign

everywhere instead of a name there is a lie

 

nobody has seen it happening

nobody remembers

 

this what the words were made

to prophesy

 

here are the extinct feathers

here is the rain we saw

 

1988

Pg 980, Norton Anthology of Poetry (1997). Fourth Edition.

2 thoughts on “Losing a Language

  1. Chris Russell says:

    Thank you Bentley – Perfect

  2. rhinophile says:

    I can’t find a word to say how much reading this has affected me. Like Chris, I thank you.

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