Rorschach Test

By Franz Wright 1953–2015 Franz Wright
To tell you the truth I’d have thought it had gone out of use long ago;   
there is something so 19th-century about it,

with its absurd reverse Puritanism.

Can withdrawal from reality or interpersonal commitment be gauged   
by uneasiness at being summoned to a small closed room to discuss   
ambiguously sexual material with a total stranger?

Alone in the presence of the grave examiner, it soon becomes clear   
that, short of strangling yourself, you are going to have to find a way   
of suppressing the snickers of an eight-year-old sex fiend, and feign cu-
riosity about the process to mask your indignation at being placed in   
this situation.

Sure, you see lots of pretty butterflies with the faces of ancient Egypt-
ian queens, and so forth—you see other things, too.

Flying stingray vaginas all over the place, along with a few of their   
male counterparts transparently camouflaged as who knows what pil-
lars and swords out of the old brain’s unconscious.

You keep finding yourself thinking, “God damn it, don’t tell me that   
isn’t a pussy!”

But after long silence come out with, “Oh, this must be Christ trying   
to prevent a large crowd from stoning a woman to death.”

The thing to do is keep a straight face, which is hard. After all, you’re   
supposed to be crazy

(and are probably proving it).

Maybe a nudge and a chuckle or two wouldn’t hurt your case. Yes,

it’s some little card game you’ve gotten yourself into this time, when   
your only chance is to lose. Fold,

and they have got you by the balls—

just like the ones you neglected to identify.

Franz Wright, “Rorschach Test” from Ill Lit: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 1998 by Franz Wright. Reprinted with the permission of Oberlin College Press.

Source: Ill Lit: Selected and New Poems (Oberlin College Press, 1998)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Franz Wright 1953–2015

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Relationships, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Franz  Wright


Franz Wright was born in Vienna, Austria and grew up in the Northwest, the Midwest, and California. He earned a BA from Oberlin College in 1977. His collections of poetry include The Beforelife (2001); God’s Silence (2006); Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004; Wheeling Motel (2009); Kindertotenwald (2011); and (2013). In his precisely crafted, lyrical poems, Wright addresses the subjects of . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Relationships, Humor & Satire

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.