Monday, January 16, 2012

Tuesday Poem--Father by James Wright

In paradise I poised my foot above the boat and said:
Who prayed for me?
But only the dip of an oar
In water sounded: slowly fog from some cold shore
Circled in wreaths around my head.
         But who is waiting?
And the wind began,
Transfiguring my face from nothingness
To tiny weeping eyes. And when my voice
Grew real, there was a place
Far, far below on earth. There was a tiny man--
It was my father wandering round the waters at the wharf.
Irritably he circled and he called
Out to the marine currents up and down,
But heard only a cold unmeaning cough,
And saw the oarsman in the mist enshawled.
He drew me from the boat. I was asleep.
And we went home together.
James Wright


  1. The final lines have such an openness and simplicity to them - I felt like I should whisper them. I am new to James Wright's poetry, so thank you so much for sharing, Melissa.

  2. Haunting. I had to go back to and look up Wright, because I knew I had read his poems before, had talked about a football poem, but couldn't remember the name of it (not knowing if I'd remembered any of it correctly). Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry, Ohio is the poem that was discussed in a poetry class many years ago.

    And so, what it is about Wright, the litany of stunning imagery in his work, well, it makes me think of your poetry, and its also stunning imagery. And makes me realize that I've so much more poetry to read and study!
    Thank you for this poem, Melissa. :)

  3. Dear Elizabeth, James Wright, unfortunately in a great state of neglect in America now, is a master. He is a poet of great feeling, and of the lightest of touches. I love him so entirely I very nearly want to post one of his poems every Tuesday until everyone has read everything!

  4. Dear Jayne, that's one of Wright's most famous poems, and there are so many unforgettable ones like that--based in a real Ohio, and the requisite hubbub of modern life, they also have such quiet moments, like the gentlest touch on a piano keyboard, notes in a minor key which simply break your heart. He's truly wonderful. xo