James Arlington Wright

(13 December 1927 – 25 March 1980 / Ohio)

A Mad Fight Song For William S. Carpenter, 1966


Varus, varus, gib mir meine Legionen wieder


Quick on my feet in those Novembers of my loneliness,
I tossed a short pass,
Almost the instant I got the ball, right over the head
Of Barrel Terry before he knocked me cold.


When I woke, I found myself crying out
Latin conjugations, and the new snow falling
At the edge of a green field.


Lemoyne Crone had caught the pass, while I lay
Unconscious and raging
Alone with the fire ghost of Catullus, the contemptuous graces tossing
Garlands and hendecasyllabics over the head
Of Cornelius Nepos the mastodon,
The huge volume.


At the edges of Southeast Asia this afternoon
The quarterbacks and the lines are beginning to fall,
A spring snow,


And terrified young men
Quick on their feet
Lob one another’s skulls across
Wings of strange birds that are burning
Themselves alive.

Submitted: Thursday, April 15, 2010

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