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

By James Wright 1927–1980 James Wright
I will grieve alone,
As I strolled alone, 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.

James Wright, “In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia, Has Been Condemned” 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)

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Poet James Wright 1927–1980

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Nature, Living, Death, Jobs & Working, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Activities

Poetic Terms Free Verse