“The Unwritten” – W.S. Merwin

Mickail Vrubel - "Pencils' (1905)

Pencils (1905)

Mickail Vrubel


below is a poem wherein the poet,
W.S. Merwin, confronts his pencil,
any pencil, which each contains
all the words which will never be
written, it is a great spur to the
creative imagination, an evocation
of the infinities of possibilities
available to any artist, any
person, indeed, who dreams

but in the 21st Century, will
anyone soon wonder what’s
a pencil, when was the last
time, ask yourself, you even
used one



The Unwritten

Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding

they’re awake in there
dark in the dark
hearing us
but they won’t come out
not for love not for time not for fire

even when the dark has worn away
they’ll still be there
hiding in the air
multitudes in days to come may walk through them
breathe them
be none the wiser

what script can it be
that they won’t unroll
in what language
would I recognize it
would I be able to follow it
to make out the real names
of everything

maybe there aren’t
it could be that there’s only one word
and it’s all we need
it’s here in this pencil

every pencil in the world
is like this

W.S. Merwin