Divorce

I saw the wolf in winter watching on the raw hill
I stood at night on top of the black tower and sang
I saw my mouth in spring float away on the river
I was a child in rooms where the furs were climbing
and each was alone and they had no eyes no faces
nothing inside them any more but the stories
they never breathed as they waved in their dreams of grass
and I sang the best songs that were sung in the world
as long as a song lasts they came by themselves to me
and I loved blades and boasting and shouting as I rode
as though I was the bright day flashing from everything
I loved being with women and their breath and their skin
and the thought of them carried me like a wind
I uttered terrible things about other men
in a time when tongues were cut out to pay for kissing
but I set my sail for the island of Venus
and a niece of the Emperor in Constantinople
and I could have become the Emperor myself
I won and I won and all the women in the world
were in love with me and they wanted what I wanted
so I thought and every one of them deceived me
I was the greatest fool in the world I was the world’s fool
I have been forgiven and came home as I dreamed
and have seen them all dancing and singing as the ship came in
and I have watched friends die and have worn black and cut off
the tails and ears of all my horses in mourning
and have shaved my head and the heads of my followers
I have been a poor man living in a rich man’s house
and I have gone back to the mountains and for one woman
I have worn the fur of a wolf and the shepherd’s dogs
have run me to earth and I have been left for dead
and have come back hearing them laughing and the furs
were hanging in the same places and I have seen
what is not there I have sung its song I have breathed
its day and it was nothing to you where were you.

—”Piere Vidal,” W. S. Merwin

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