by W.S. Merwin

This is what I have heard

at last the wind in December
lashing the old trees with rain
unseen rain racing along the tiles
under the moon
wind rising and falling
wind with many clouds
trees in the night wind

after an age of leaves and feathers
someone dead
thought of this mountain as money
and cut the trees
that were here in the wind
in the rain at night
it is hard to say it
but they cut the sacred ‘ohias then
the sacred koas then
the sandalwood and the halas
holding aloft their green fires
and somebody dead turned cattle loose
among the stumps until killing time

but the trees have risen one more time
and the night wind makes them sound
like the sea that is yet unknown
the black clouds race over the moon
the rain is falling on the last place

“Rain at Night” is found in Rain in the Trees, Poems by W.S. Merwin (Knopf, 1988), available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in 1927, W.S. Merwin served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2010-2011. He is the author of over 50 books of poetry, prose, and translations — and has  earned every major literary prize, including the National Book Award in 2005 for Migration: New and Selected Poems and the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in1971 and 2009. He lives in Hawaii where he raises endangered palm trees. Visit his website at

Photo: “Rain Forest, Hawaii,” by Ariel Robbins, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED