Wednesday’s Poem 4/29/09

James Wright – “A Blessing”

Just off the Highway to Rochester, Minnesota
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

Commentary
This is a powerful and eloquent telling of a brief encounter: 2 humans and 2 young horses. Wright is able to make it so much more.

The tenderness with which the speaker describes the animals – their love for each other, their friendliness toward their human visitors – is driven home by images such as the metaphor: “They bow shyly as wet swans.” And: “Her mane falls wild on her forehead, / And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear / That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.”

He makes proclamations to good effect: “They love each other. / There is no loneliness like theirs.” We need no equivocations, qualifications, or explanations. On the other hand, that these two ideas – love and loneliness – are paired together makes me wonder. Is he speaking of the loneliness that comes with being the only 2 animals in their world that are like each other? (This being the reason they love each other so much. Perhaps all love is like this; we fall in love with the only other creature like ourselves in the world – at least the closest thing we know of at the time.)

Finally, those last lines…stepping out of the body, breaking into blossom…an uplifting sentiment fulfilled by lines whose blessings grow with each syllable and with each reading.

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One Response to Wednesday’s Poem 4/29/09

  1. Angele Ellis says:

    I think that the loneliness in James Wright’s “A Blessing” springs from the idea that to be paired with one’s mate, one’s other half, is not enough, for horses or for humans:

    “…They have come gladly out of the willows
    To welcome my friend and me.
    We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
    Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
    They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their
    happiness
    That we have come…”

    Although the speaker asserts that the Indian ponies “love each other”–and there is an unspoken allusion that some kind of affection exists between the speaker and his “friend”–the statement “There is no loneliness like theirs”(or ours?) immediately follows.

    The heart of this poem, its true romantic interlude, is between the speaker and the female pony:

    “…I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
    For she has walked over to me
    And nuzzled my left hand.
    She is black and white,
    Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
    And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
    That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist…”

    In the anthropomorphic lines “…the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear/That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist…”, it is as if the pony has become a lovely young woman.

    This “delicate” realization, this sudden growth of love within the speaker, moves the poem to its beautiful conclusion, in which the speaker uses the metaphor of love as a flower in a startling way:

    “…Suddenly I realize
    That if I stepped out of my body I would break
    Into blossom.”

    In the speaker’s vision of “stepp[ing] out of my body”–being freed from physicality–it is as if he himself becomes the living token of love, however it is perceived or received.

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