A Blessing by James Wright
Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.And the eyes of those two Indian poniesDarken with kindness.They have come gladly out of the willowsTo welcome my friend and me.We step over the barbed wire into the pastureWhere they have been grazing all day, alone.They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happinessThat we have come.They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.There is no loneliness like theirs.At home once more,They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,For she has walked over to meAnd nuzzled my left hand.She is black and white,Her mane falls wild on her forehead,And the light breeze moves me to caress her long earThat is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.Suddenly I realizeThat if I stepped out of my body I would breakInto blossom.
Think I can count on my fingers how many times I have stepped over the barbed wire of my life and into the beyond, where happiness has come to meet me. When I was much younger, I thought myself the purveyor of the spontaneous, but now I am more cautious about approaching joy as if it is a creature about to bolt away from me.
Sometimes I miss who I used to be.
Have you ever arrived at wonder, and what was it that you were looking at?
When your eyes rake over me with tenderness, when your hand cups my cheek ever so gently—I can’t bring back who I was but I can still wear this body, I can still break open, I can still be held.
This poem appeared in Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose by James Wright, published by Wesleyan University Press, 1990. Shared here with profound gratitude.
“One of the most admired American poets of his generation, James Wright (1927-80) wrote contemplative, sturdy, and generous poems with an honesty, clarity, and stylistic range matched by very few–then or now. From his Deep Image-inspired lyrics to his Whtimanesque renderings of Neruda, Vallejo, and other Latin American poets, and from his heartfelt reflections on life, love, and loss in his native Ohio to the celebrated prose poems (set frequently in Italy) that marked the end of his important career, Above the River gathers the complete work of a modern master. It also features a moving and insightful introduction by Donald Hall, Wright’s longtime friend and colleague.”
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