James Wright, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota”

poetry

Over my head i see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk flies over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

* * *

James Wright has a way with an ending – creating this startlingly crisp twist that is sudden, confusing, and yet understood (see one of my all-time favorite poems). This is certainly one of his finest turns – taking what is otherwise a rather commonplace, lyrical, pastoral poem and bursting the magic of it with even more magic. A lesser poet might have ended on the chicken hawk line and called it a nice little poem. James Wright went straight for the gut and that’s why he’s one of the best.

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