Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Poem A Day #17

Yesterday we had a poem by James Wright, who we will return to before long for some excellent translations of Herman Hesse and some more of his own work.  Today I've got a couple of poems by his son, Franz Wright.

Franz is one of those rare cases where the child is able to step out of the parent's shadow in the same field, and be taken on their own merit.  When his collection "Walking to Martha's Vineyard" won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004, it made him and his father the first father/son pair to have won that prize as poets. 

The following poems are from his 1995 collection "Rorschach Test."  The first feels almost like a response to his father's poem yesterday.  They take place in the same city, even.


Movement of the hour hand, dilating
of the rose...
Once I could write those.
What am I?  A skull

biting its fingernails, a no one
with nowhere to be
consulting his watch,
a country music station left on quietly

all night, the motel door left open
to Wheeling's rainy main street, the river
and wind
and every whiskey-breathed

ghost in the family --
left open,
old man,
for you.

- Franz Wright

The next is a beautifully subtle piece, less confessional and more observational and quietly filled with the chill of memory.


It's one of those evenings
we all know
from somewhere.  It might be
the last summery day --
you feel called on to leave what you're doing
and go for a walk by yourself.
Your few vacant streets are the world.
And you might be a six year old child
who's finally been allowed
by his elders to enter a game
of hide-and-seek in progress.
It is getting darker fast,
and he's not supposed to be out;
but he gleefully runs off, concealing himself
with his back to a tree
that sways high overhead
among the first couple of stars.
He keeps dead still, barely breathing for pleasure,
long after they have left.

- Franz Wright

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