The End of an Ethnic Dream

By Jay Wright b. 1934 Jay Wright
Cigarettes in my mouth
to puncture blisters in my brain.   
My bass a fine piece of furniture.   
My fingers soft, too soft to rattle   
rafters in second-rate halls.
The harmonies I could never learn   
stick in Ayler's screams.
An African chant chokes us. My image shot.

If you look off over the Hudson,
the dark cooperatives spit at the dinghies   
floating up the night.

                A young boy pisses
on lovers rolling against each other   
under a trackless el.

         This could have been my town,
with light strings that could stand a tempo.

                  it's the end
                  of an ethnic dream.

I've grown intellectual,
go on accumulating furniture and books,   
damning literature, writing “for myself,”   
calculating the possibilities that someone   
will love me, or sleep with me.
Eighteen-year-old girls come back from the Southern   
leers and make me cry.

                  Here, there are
                  coffee shops, bars,
                  natural tonsorial parlors,   
                  plays, streets,
                  pamphlets, days, sun,
                  heat, love, anger,   
                  politics, days, and sun.

Here, we shoot off
every day to new horizons,   
coffee shops, bars,
natural tonsorial parlors,   
plays, streets,
pamphlets, days, sun,
heat, love, anger,
politics, days, and sun.

                  It is the end of an ethnic dream.   
                  My bass a fine piece of furniture.   
                  My brain blistered.

Jay Wright, “The End of an Ethnic Dream” from Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2000). Copyright © 2000 by Jay Wright. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

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Poet Jay Wright b. 1934

Subjects Growing Old, Music, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Living, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Jay  Wright


Frequently described as a “poet’s poet,” Jay Wright has quietly built an impressive career as one of America’s leading African-American voices. His work, praised for its evocative language, introspective tone, and mythological imagery, has won many honors, including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, and Yale’s prestigious Bollingen Prize. Wright’s plays, essays, and poetry generally . . .

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SUBJECT Growing Old, Music, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Living, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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