By Jay Wright b. 1934 Jay Wright

Guadalajara—New York, 1965

The trees are crystal chandeliers,   
and deep in the hollow
a child pits its voice
against the rain.
The city screams its prayers   
at the towers in the distance.

Those guitars again.
And the Catholic mantis   
clutching at the sky,
a pearl of a city,
cuando se duerme.

Subway blue boys
now ride shotgun
against my freedom and my fears.   
Pistols snap like indignant heels,
at midday, and we stand at the docks,   
singing a farewell we'd soon forget.

Hymns resound against that dome   
entre la fiesta y la agonia.
Worms feed on its concrete,
or we pluck them out of bodies.

But time to forget.
Or remember the easiness   
of leaving easy loves,
in the arms of secret dreams.

We'll sit at the end   
of a banquet board,
and powder our tutored wigs,
flip the pages of gentility
in the rainy season.

English lessons over tea   
for the price of memory.

         Il mio supplizio   
         è quando
         non mi credo   
         in armonia.

They say the time
is not much different.
The strange and customary turns   
of living may coincide.

In Mariachi Plaza
travelers sing elegies to the beauty   
of revolutions and tranquillity.

From the opposite side of the river,   
coming in, the skyline seems scrubbed   
and pointed ominously into the darkness.

I walk through the market,   
kissing colors in a murmur   
of self-induced petition.

Two spires,
lying against the night,
are suddenly armed to sail.

The water foams against the bottom,   
the way it looked when I left
that dying city

Only a turning to feel the bark
slope off into the night,
with a promise to return.

         Un di, s'io non andrò sempre fuggendo   
         di gente in gente, mi vedrai seduto
         su la tua pietra, o fratel mio, gemendo   
         it fior dei tuoi gentili anni caduto.

From line to line,   
from point to point,
is an architect's end of cities.

But I lie down
to a different turbulence
and a plan of transformation.

Jay Wright, “Homecoming” 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 Travels & Journeys, Activities

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 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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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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