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James Arlington Wright

(13 December 1927 – 25 March 1980 / Ohio)

Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota


Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon.
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year's horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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  • Rookie Chris Calloo (8/16/2009 12:38:00 PM)

    Lazy Reader:

    Admit it. You read too quickly. You were lazy. Weak.

    How pleasing to think of last year's horses, a bronze butterfly, cowbells in the ravine,

    How startling, the poem's last line.

    'I have wasted my life.' Is that poetry? Sounds like prose, rhetoric, a declarative sentence. Sounds like telling, not showing.

    Try the poem again. But this time, don't read. Lie in the hammock. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie A E Webster (9/16/2005 7:52:00 AM)

    Wonderful, I first heard this on radio bbc 7, an arresting and peaceful poem, read in a voice beautifully in tune with its meaning. In the final line, sudden even abrupt as a self judgement can be when measuring against a perfection in nature, he (as we) are confronted with the tragedy of our existence; an animal which knows it is dying can never match such a perfection. Contrast this with similiar work by Edwin Muir also. (Report) Reply

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