Spring 1999 • Vol. XXI No. 2 Poetry |

Purgatory X

From the Italian When we were in over the sill of the gate   which is neglected by the soul's wrong love   making the crooked way seem to be straight the loud sound told me it had closed again   and if I had turned back to look at it   what excuse could have wiped that error out? We were climbing through a fissure in the stone   that kept turning from one side to the other   as a wave that flows away and runs back in. "Some skill is called for in this place," my leader   began, "to keep one side or the other   close at those points where either turns away." That so much limited the steps we took   that the moon, past the full then, had gone back  into her bed, and to her rest, before we made our way out of that needle's eye   but once we were in the open, and free,   up where the mountain draws back toward itself I was weary and we were both uncertain   of our way. We stopped at a level place   more s

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W. S. Merwin was appointed United States Poet Laureate by the Librarian of Congress in July 2010. He lives, writes, and gardens in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. He has spent the last thirty years planting nineteen acres with over eight hundred species of palm, creating a sustainable forest. The property has recently been turned into a conservancy, the Merwin Conservancy.

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