The Omao

the omao


The sound of the wind was suddenly muted and far away.

The air was cooler, and from somewhere I could not see

among the trees I was startled to hear the voice of a thrush singing…

                                                                                         W.S. Merwin

He hears me

in that hour of the day

when others cannot


and understands a bird

has many songs  — like a man

has many thoughts.


My voice mingles

with the itch of  dry grass, mist

unfurling from sea cliffs

barnacled with moss


and the aroma of ripe

mangoes.  And sometimes in this grove,

it hushes the wind — or  shatters light

into glints of omniscience  Long


before he came — when plovers scraped the sky

with their spring flight, I  had dreamt

of his coming. Someone to restore

the soil,  to watch  fields (skirted in gold )

dance in the distance

and dance with them in beautiful words.


These days, I sing

longer and sweeter, beckoning him to stay — and still

keep me as his muse,  his forest shadow.


Note — American poet, W. S. Merwin died in March of this year and spent his last days in Hawaii working to save and restore the landscape of an old sugar plantation. Much of its soil and other features had eroded through time and had been harmed by commercial farming. He was dedicated to restoring this place through hands on experience with the terrain and through his writing.  He was also enthralled with the bird species’ of this area including a bird with many diverse songs called  The Omao  or  Hawaiian Nightingale.  He believed many of nature’s species had the power to communicate on a high level with each other and even with humans  if they had the patience, open-mindedness and willingness to listen


  1. A rich depiction of the man’s work. Sadly, I am not familiar either with his poetry or his work reclaiming that plantation. I shall have to see what I can find online. Thank you for bringing him to our attention.


  2. These days, I sing

    longer and sweeter, beckoning him to stay — and still

    keep me as his muse, his forest shadow.

    cool read. thanx.



  3. Wendy,

    You have outdone yourself again, and that is no easy task.
    The very first strophe captures me completely, the second
    continues the thrall, the third awes and holds even tighter,
    and the fourth wraps me in wind and the scent of mangoes,
    the fifth turns me to a field ‘skirted in gold’ and the last
    wraps me in wonder and a sense of fulfillment. I began reading
    your poem in a Monday morning frazzle (even though it’s
    Tuesday) and by the last word, I was wrapped in contentment
    and dreams of being an Omao. I love everything about this
    melodious masterpiece.


  4. Hi Echo Poet

    Thanks so much for taking the time to read my poem! I sincerely appreciate it!

    Hi Michael

    Yes, he was quite a fascinating man as well as a poet! Thank you so much for reading and sharing your thoughts; I deeply appreciate it. Here is an on-line tribute to him from one the writing blogs where I also hang-out. There is also a beautiful, lyrical narrative by Merwin, himself. This post is what mainly inspired my poem.

    Hi Craig

    Thanks so much for reading and sharing your perspective. I am so glad you enjoyed this one!

    Hi Sarah

    Your commentary has just made my day!! Wow! thank you so much for those wonderful and generous words creating this poem. I apt to think by your point of view, I have done honorable justice with this piece to the beauty and care of Merwin’s work and cause. I fell in love with the little bird, the omao. after reading that article I mentioned above to Michael. I understand the omao sings in diverse tones and truly enchants. I wanted the voice of the bird to address Merwin in this poem because I do believe birds are messengers/prophets/cantors of nature and God’s music as well as His wisdom. Again, so many thanks to this!

    My Best to everyone,
    please take care,


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s