James Merrill (1926–1995) was an American poet whose major work The Changing Light at Sandover describes a series of spirit communications conducted over many years. He won the National Book Award from his collections Nights and Days and Mirabell: Books of Number.

IN THE REVIEW

Oranges

His mother wore, as in a fairy-tale, A fragrant crown upon her snow-white veil. The photograph obsessed him. Didn’t she know What grievous crops such blossomings entail? There was that sweetness just beneath the skin A single night of frost undid: blood kin …

Domestic Architecture

Honestly now! Another White House scandal— Denied at every level. Can’t they at least Skip the sincerity? Nope (says the analyst), That fair flag of the land’ll Flap long and loud from its pole. It’s our democratic Need to Come Clean, unfurling above the …

An Upward Look

O heart green acre sown with salt by the departing occupier lay down your gallant spears of wheat Salt of the earth each stellar pinch flung in blind defiance backwards now takes its toll Up from his quieted quarry the lover …

Three Poems by James Merrill

DAYS OF 1994 These days in my friend’s house Light seeks me underground. To wake Below the level of the lawn —Half-basement cool through the worst heat— Is strange and sweet. High up, three window-slots, new slants on dawn: Through misty greens and gilts …

After Cavafy

Why is the Rising Sun aflutter from ten thousand flagpoles?    Because the Japanese are coming today. And why do our senators, those industrious termites, Gaze off into space instead of forming a new subcommittee?    Because the Japanese are coming today.    Congress will soon be an …

Snow Jobs

X had the funds, the friends, the plan. Y’s frank grin was—our common fate Or just a flash in just a pan? Z, from the tender age of eight, Had thirsted to officiate. We hardly felt them disappear, The crooked and the somewhat straight.

Home Fires

—for John Hollander I peered into the crater’s heaving red And quailed. I called upon the Muse, I said, “The day I cease to serve you, let me die!” And woke alone to birdsong, in our bed. The flame was sinewed like the …

November Ode

The blow has fallen, our dear dim local grocery    been shut down by the State—not yet for good, though    how, in whose wildest dreams, will it get    its act together? The son picked to succeed him never lived up to the    seigneurial old man.