Losing a Language by W.S. Merwin

Endangered Languages of Africa

The theme for this World Poetry Day is Language.

Here is the second poem, ‘Losing Language’ by W.S. Merwin

Losing a Language

A breath leaves the sentences and does not come back
yet the old still remember something that they could say

but they know now that such things are no longer believed
and the young have fewer words

many of the things the words were about
no longer exist

the noun for standing in mist by a haunted tree
the verb for I

the children will not repeat
the phrases their parents speak

somebody has persuaded them
that it is better to say everything differently

so that they can be admired somewhere
farther and farther away

where nothing that is here is known
we have little to say to each other

we are wrong and dark
in the eyes of the new owners

the radio is incomprehensible
the day is glass

when there is a voice at the door it is foreign
everywhere instead of a name there is a lie

nobody has seen it happening
nobody remembers

this is what the words were made
to prophesy

here are the extinct feathers
here is the rain we saw

– by WS Merwin

Source  and Read about WS Merwin at Poets.org 



  1. Indeed, Kinna,w e are losing our language. It is sad to see our kids speaking other languages, notably English, but their mother tongues. And in so doing they mutilate the very language that they are mimicking. A wonderful poem 🙂


  2. Indeed! An old man once said if you want to extinct a race, you take away their language from them. You are right as you can see it on radio, tv, online social media how people struggle to put the right words and tenses and sentences together. On a lighter note you can see the hunger with which others try to showcase their constant touch with their mother tongue online.
    I once tried to correct a seasoned journalist’s error of the use of his language but wasn’t ready for it.
    So sad. Could you spark a talk on twitter on any topic to see how people can respond in their local languages alone? I am dying to be involved. To me it’s not a shame to wrongly use the English language but it is when it’s my local language.


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