Saturday, July 8, 2023

“After School”

by W.S. Merwin

For a long time I wanted

to get out of that school

where I had been sent

for the best

I thought of climbing

down the vine

outside the window

at night

after the watchman

had turned the corner

to the boiler room

in the sweet autumn dark

I wanted to slip

through the still dining hall

and down the cellar stairs

in the girls’ wing

where I had set the waltzing

in the first book

of War and Peace

I would pass unseen in that crowd

into the cellar

and the secret door to the steam pipes

and under the street

to the swimming pool

I would have persuaded

a girl I liked

to meet me there

and we would swim whispering

because of the echoes

while the light from the street

shone through its frosted windows

like the light of the moon

all down the hot room

where the sound of the water

made the heart beat loud

to think of it

but I never

got away then

and when I think now

of following that tunnel

there is a black wolf

tied there waiting

a thin bitch

who snaps at my right hand

but I untie her

and we find our way

out of there as one

and down the street


nobody in sight at that hour

everything closed

behind us

Source: The Rain in the Trees (Alfred A. Knopf, 1988)

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