I’m not alone in thinking W. S. Merwin is one of the most important poets living today. I certainly find myself turning to his poetry often for solace. (To learn more about him, click here.)

Not surprisingly, he is a practicing Buddhist, bringing mindfulness and a deep respect for nature to his work.

This poem, The Unwritten, is one that I turn to in my classes for both inspiration and to use as an actual writing prompt: “Inside this pencil crouch words…” The assignment for the writer is to write whatever words arise from that lead-in, and I’m always amazed at what “unrolls” as a result.



The Unwritten

by W. S. Merwin


Inside this pencil

crouch words that have never been written

never been spoken

never been taught


they’re hiding


they’re awake in there

dark in the dark

hearing us

but they won’t come out

not for love not for time not for fire


even when the dark has worn away

they’ll still be there

hiding in the air

multitudes in days to come may walk through them

breathe them

be none the wiser


what script can it be

that they won’t unroll

in what language

would I recognize it

would I be able to follow it

to make out the real names

of everything


maybe there aren’t


it could be that there’s only one word

and it’s all we need

it’s here in this pencil


every pencil in the world

is like this

lead writing and mindfulness workshops throughout the Bay Area. My approach is adaptable in many settings — from helping groups honor an important life event to assisting a business team in articulating a shared vision. Contact me to learn more. For information on my San Francisco real estate practice, visit RealEstateTherapy.org or CynthiaCummins.com.