The Day I Learned of W. S. Merwin and Fell in Love

Phil Goldstein


Autumn was an odd golden doorway to death
surrounded by new things: clothing, notebooks, earnestness.

It was that September when I finally tasted
what it was like to have a lock on my door.

The leaves were still so iridescently green, It sometimes hurt
my eyes when I looked out my dorm window in the morning.

And there you were one afternoon, capturing
my eyes with the way you glided across the grass in a cherry-colored cardigan.

Your confidence a Romanesque halo, your smile
the first genuine thing I had seen in months.

I saw you again three days later, by a pond.
I was just a part of the scenery—a bench, a plaque, a statue.

It took every ounce of nerve to ask you what you were reading.
You dog-eared a page, looked up, and said, “Merwin.”

I didn’t know Merwin, or poetry, just the green
pools staring back at me, and that I wanted

to kiss you more than I’d wanted anything.
You were everything I never had at home.

There was so much I knew you could show me.
I asked “Would you read some to me?” And then you did.



Phil Goldstein’s debut poetry collection, How to Bury a Boy at Sea, which reckons with the trauma of child sexual abuse from the male perspective, was published by Stillhouse Press in April 2022. His poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and a Best of the Net award and has appeared in South Florida Poetry Journal, The Laurel Review, Rust+Moth, Moist Poetry Journal, Two Peach, The Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. He currently lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and animals: a dog named Brenna, and two cats, Grady and Princess.