Sunday, December 28, 2008

James Wright: The Blue Jay and the Levitation of All Things

The Branch Will Not Break is truly a treasure trove of the best of James Wright. There are so many excellent pieces in this collection they almost outnumber the just average work. Here's another poem that resonates from here to heaven and back again:


The moon drops one of two feathers into the field.
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moon's young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean into mine.

I listen to this poem and I think first of the old Japanese custom of throwing moon-viewing parties. Once again, there is an Oriental element to this work, but something else also. There is a touch of surrealism and that is really what makes this particular piece work. Somehow, when the woman lifts up, you feel it and it feels right. All this without the benefit of a soundtrack, as in the Talking Heads classic "And She Was," which comes to mind.

I love the following for its sheer reality, it feels like an actual moment that the poet perfectly captures:

from Two Hangovers

Number Two: I Try To Waken And Greet The World
----------------------Once Again
In a pine tree,
A few yards away from my window sill,
A brilliant blue jay is springing up and down, up and
On a branch.
I laugh, as I see him abandon himself
To entire delight, for he knows as well as I do
That the branch will not break.
James Wright



Charles Gramlich said...

THE "dark wheat". something about that sings.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for pointing out the typo, it was an important line! I appreciate it.

The poems are very powerful. James Wright is really amazing. So glad I found this today.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Yes, I agree completely ...

Cheryl, glad you found your way here. That is a really good Oliver poem you posted. I have a number of posts here on here ... here's a link for you ... or just type "Mary Oliver" in the blog search box.


Greg said...

nice poems. i'm adding "the branch will not break" to my to-read list.

Jim H. said...

or if it breaks we both know it doesn't matter

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Jim, touché, Don