Friday, January 16, 2009

James Wright: "In Response to a Rumor ..."

Bridgeport, Ohio and Wheeling Island

Here's another poem from James Wright's Selected Poems, from the Near Perfect Poetry list. It comes from the volume Shall We Gather at the River (as opposed to Above the River: The Complete Poems).

This is quintessential Wright; it breaks your heart in such a lovely, human way. It is at once the product of its time and the place of its inception and, somehow, ubiquitous, touching tenderly each and every soul that lets it in.

Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse
in Wheeling, West Virginia, Has Been Condemned

I will grieve alone
As I strolled along, years ago, down along
The Ohio shore.
I hid in the hobo jungle weeds
Upstream from the sewer main,
Pondering, gazing.

I saw, down river,
At Twenty-third and Water Streets
By the vinegar works,
The doors open in early evening.
Swinging their purses, the women
Poured down the long street to the river
And into the river.

I do not know how it was
They could drown every evening.
What time near dawn did they climb up the other shore,
Drying their wings?

For the river at Wheeling, West Virginia,
Has only two shores:
The one in hell, the other
in Bridgeport, Ohio.

And nobody would commit suicide, only
to find beyond death
Bridgeport, Ohio.

You might want to check out an earlier version of the Selected Poems at google books: Collected Poems. Have a great weekend.



Jim H. said...

Living in an old house in Columbus, near the university, we'd listen to country music on WWVA, Wheeling. Though we were almost neighbors, the music and voices from WWVA sounded as if they were coming from some far-off mysterious land.

I also remember joking with my dad whenever we drove east how quickly we could cross West Virginia -- a whole state in about 10 minutes! memories of Wheeling, such as they are.

Thanks for posting that poem. It's evocative in so many ways.

Charles Gramlich said...

Very nice. It's just amazing how poetry can put the gleam of myth and wonder to everything.

Ed Baker said...

used to take train from Union Station to Wheeling in the 50's with my grandmother and brother...

the train ride was our favorite and Fort Henry and..

I remember, once my parents closed trhe DGS for a fwe days and we drove AL THE WAY TO WHEELING! and over a neat iron bridge

well... a sense of "place"... even if it is your own 1/5 acre back yard... is where "a poetry" is.

thanks for spending so much time in the work of
James Wright

ps. used to live Summit Point, WV (NW of Charlestown) and listened to that radio station NON-STOP "Hill-Billy" music! The 'real deal'

tough football players came into college basll from around them parts, too. and, I think, Sam Huff from .... also

Pris said...

This poem really grabbed me hard for some reason. Those women, going into the river and out the other side...

Poet Hound said...

Lovely poem to share, Don.