The Flat Light Rising

Published:April 29, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

A poem, “Low Fields and Light,” by W. S. Merwin that appeared in the New Yorker on November 5, 1955:

I think it is in Virginia, that place
That lies across the eye of the mind now
Like a gray blade set to the moon’s roundness,
Like a plain of glass touching all there is.

The flat fields run out to the sea there.
There is no sand, no line. It is autumn.
The bare fields, dark between fences, run
Out to the idle gleam of the flat water.

And the fences go on out, sinking slowly,
With a cowbird halfway, on a stunted post, watching
How the light slides through them easy as weeds
Or wind, slides over them away out near the sky—

Because even a bird can remember
The fields that were there before the slow
Spread and wash of the edging light crawled
There and covered them, a little more each year.

My father never plowed there, nor my mother
Waited, and never knowingly I stood there,
Hearing the seepage slow as growth, nor knew
When the taste of salt took over the ground.

But you would think the fields were something
To me, so long I stare out, looking
For their shapes or shadows through the matted gleam, seeing
Neither what is nor what was, but the flat light rising.

IMAGE: Townhouses, Virginia, 11:06:23AM, Winter 2009, Crescent by Stacey Evans