By Richard Wilbur b. 1921 Richard Wilbur

Huru Welandes
worc ne geswiceσ?
monna ænigum
σara σe Mimming can
heardne gehealdan.


An axe angles
                               from my neighbor’s ashcan;
It is hell’s handiwork,
                                              the wood not hickory,
The flow of the grain
                                           not faithfully followed.
The shivered shaft
                                       rises from a shellheap
Of plastic playthings,
                                             paper plates,
And the sheer shards
                                          of shattered tumblers
That were not annealed
                                             for the time needful.
At the same curbside,
                                           a cast-off cabinet
Of wavily warped
                                    unseasoned wood
Waits to be trundled
                                          in the trash-man’s truck.
Haul them off! Hide them!
                                                 The heart winces
For junk and gimcrack,
                                             for jerrybuilt things
And the men who make them
                                                 for a little money,   
Bartering pride
                                  like the bought boxer
Who pulls his punches,
                                             or the paid-off jockey   
Who in the home stretch
                                              holds in his horse.   
Yet the things themselves
                                                 in thoughtless honor
Have kept composure,
                                          like captives who would not
Talk under torture.
                                        Tossed from a tailgate
Where the dump displays
                                              its random dolmens,
Its black barrows
                                     and blazing valleys,
They shall waste in the weather
                                                          toward what they were.
The sun shall glory
                                        in the glitter of glass-chips,
Foreseeing the salvage
                                             of the prisoned sand,   
And the blistering paint
                                                peel off in patches,
That the good grain
                                        be discovered again.
Then burnt, bulldozed,
                                             they shall all be buried   
To the depth of diamonds,
                                                 in the making dark
Where halt Hephaestus
                                           keeps his hammer
And Wayland’s work
                                       is worn away.

Richard Wilbur, “Junk” from Collected Poems 1943-2004. Copyright © 2004 by Richard Wilbur. Reprinted with the permission of Harcourt, Inc. This material may not be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Source: Collected Poems 1943-2004 (Harcourt Inc., 2004)

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Poet Richard Wilbur b. 1921

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Activities

 Richard  Wilbur


Richard Wilbur “is a poet for all of us, whose elegant words brim with wit and paradox,” announced Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin when the poet succeeded Robert Penn Warren to become the second poet laureate of the United States. Wilbur won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for his collection Things of This World: Poems in 1957 and a second Pulitzer for New and Collected Poems. He has won the Wallace Stevens . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Money & Economics, Jobs & Working, Activities

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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