Yesterday

W. S. Merwin

 
My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand
he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know
even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes
he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father
he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me
oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father's hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me
oh yes I say
but if you are busy he said
I don't want you to feel that you
have to
just because I'm here
I say nothing
he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don't want to keep you
I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know
though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do
 
From Opening the Hand, by W. S. Merwin, published by Atheneum. Copyright © 1983 by W. S. Merwin. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

For the Anniversary of My Death by W. S. Merwin
Language by W. S. Merwin
Certain words now in our knowledge we will not use again
My Friends by W. S. Merwin
My friends without shields walk on the target
One of the Lives by W. S. Merwin
If I had not met the red-haired boy whose father
Thanks by W. S. Merwin
Listen
Variation on a Theme by W. S. Merwin
Thank you my life long afternoon


Further Reading

Dead Father Poems
Cruel Cogito
by Ken Chen
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Little Father
by Li-Young Lee
Mortality
by William Knox
My Father
by Scott Hightower
My Father on His Shield
by Walt McDonald
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
Parents
by William Meredith
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
The Figure
by Joseph Fasano
The Gift
by Li-Young Lee
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
Working Late
by Louis Simpson
Poems About Fathers
'The child is father to the man.'
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
The Last 4 Things [That hard thread]
by Kate Greenstreet
A Boy and His Dad
by Edgar Guest
A Situation for Mrs. Biswas
by Prageeta Sharma
A Story
by Li-Young Lee
A Story
by Philip Levine
American Primitive
by William Jay Smith
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
Auld Lang Syne
by Jennifer L. Knox
Blood
by Naomi Shihab Nye
Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon
by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Daddy
by Sylvia Plath
Descriptions of Heaven and Hell
by Mark Jarman
Do not go gentle into that good night
by Dylan Thomas
Father
by Edgar Guest
Father Outside
by Nick Flynn
Father's Day Cards
from The Princess [Sweet and low, sweet and low]
by Lord Alfred Tennyson
Grief Calls Us to the Things of This World
by Sherman Alexie
Her Father
by Thomas Hardy
How to Be a Lawyer
by Jordan Davis
Inventing Father In Las Vegas
by Lynn Emanuel
Lay Back the Darkness
by Edward Hirsch
Like Him
by Aaron Smith
Man of the Year
by Robin Becker
Meeting with My Father in the Orchard
by Homero Aridjis
My Father
by Scott Hightower
my father moved through dooms of love
by E. E. Cummings
My Father on His Shield
by Walt McDonald
My Father Remembers Blue Zebras
by Judy Halebsky
My Father's Hat
by Mark Irwin
My Father's Leaving
by Ira Sadoff
My Papa's Waltz
by Theodore Roethke
Only a Dad
by Edgar Guest
Parents
by William Meredith
Passing
by Carl Phillips
Poems about Fathers
Renewal [Excerpt]
by Chris Abani
Separation is the necessary condition for light.
by Brian Teare
Shaving Your Father's Face
by Michael Dickman
Tended Strength: Gifts of Poetry for Fathers
The Ferryer
by Sharon Olds
The Idea of Ancestry
by Etheridge Knight
The Idiot
by Charles Reznikoff
The Portrait
by Stanley Kunitz
The Trouble Ball [excerpt]
by Martín Espada
Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
To Her Father with Some Verses
by Anne Bradstreet
Toad
by Diane Seuss
Whose Mouth Do I Speak With
by Suzanne Rancourt
With Kit, Age 7, at the Beach
by William Stafford
Working Late
by Louis Simpson
Poems About Sons
A Boy and His Dad
by Edgar Guest
Another Country
by Ryan Teitman
Come Up From the Fields Father
by Walt Whitman
Epigrams: On my First Son
by Ben Jonson
Fishing in Winter
by Ralph Burns
Goodnight Moon
by James Arthur
Like Him
by Aaron Smith
Odysseus to Telemachus
by Joseph Brodsky
On My First Son
by Ben Jonson
The Bee
by James Dickey
With Kit, Age 7, at the Beach
by William Stafford