A blessing * James Wright

Emotional or spiritual experiences are especially hard to capture in words. Why did you break up with your significant other? Why do you listen to a particular Bob Marley song over and over? Why do you practice yoga? Why do you own a dog? Why is the view from a mountaintop worth all the sweat and blisters it took to hike there? It’s hard to explain.

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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.
James Wright, “A Blessing” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose.Copyright 1990 by James Wright. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
Source: Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose (1990)

“A Blessing” was first published in 1963, and in 1972 Wright was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry as well as the Fellowship of the Academy of American Poets. Though grateful for the recognition, Wright pooh-poohed his achievement, predicting that his work would end as a “footnote” in American poetry. But the American public begged to differ, and Wright’s poems remain popular more than twenty years after his death.

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