Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Poem A Day #16

Here's a poem I stumbled across a couple years ago by James Wright, master of reinvention.

The assignment was a good one - we had to keep a commonplace book of poems we found in our reading (which, of course, meant that we had to be reading poems fairly often).  That project was, in a way, the genesis of this one.  There have already been a few poems from this column taken from that commonplace book, and I assume eventually all of them will end up here. 

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about this poem that made me pay attention and put it in the book.  Maybe it's the subtle dark humor, maybe it's the melancholy rhythm of the language, or maybe I just really like the phrase "hobo jungle weeds."  I don't know.


I will grieve alone,
As I strolled alone, years ago, down along
The Ohio shore.
I hid in the hobo jungle weeds
Upstream from the sewer main,
Pondering, gazing.

I saw, down river,
At Twenty-third and Water Streets
By the vinegar works,
The doors open in early evening.
Swinging their purses, the women
Poured down the long street to the river
And into the river.

I do not know how it was
They could drown every evening.
What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore,
Drying their wings?

For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,
Has only two shores:
The one in hell, the other
In Bridgeport, Ohio.

And nobody would commit suicide, only
To find beyond death
Bridgeport, Ohio.

- James Wright

Today the father, tomorrow the son.

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