My friends without shields walk on the target It is late the windows are breaking My friends without shoes leave What they love Grief moves among them as a fire among Its bells My friends without clocks turn On the dial they turn They part My friends with names like gloves set out Bare handed as they have lived And nobody knows them It is they that lay the wreaths at the milestones it is their Cups that are found at the wells And are then chained up My friends without feet sit by the wall Nodding to the lame orchestra Brotherhood it says on the decorations My friend without eyes sits in the rain smiling With a nest of salt in his hand My friends without fathers or houses hear Doors opening in the darkness Whose halls announce Behold the smoke has come home My friends and I have in common The present a wax bell in a wax belfry This message telling of Metals this Hunger for the sake of hunger this owl in the heart And these hands one For asking one for applause My friends with nothing leave it behind In a box My friends without keys go out from the jails it is night They take the same road they miss Each other they invent the same banner in the dark They ask their way only of sentries too proud to breathe At dawn the stars on their flag will vanish The water will turn up their footprints and the day will rise Like a monument to my Friends the forgotten
From The Moving Target, by W. S. Merwin, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1963 by W. S. Merwin. Used with permission.
W. S. Merwin
William Stanley Merwin was born in New York City on September 30, 1927.
Date Published: 1963-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/my-friends