A Note Left in Jimmy Leonard’s Shack

By James Wright 1927–1980 James Wright
Near the dry river’s water-mark we found   
      Your brother Minnegan,
Flopped like a fish against the muddy ground.   
Beany, the kid whose yellow hair turns green,   
Told me to find you, even in the rain,
      And tell you he was drowned.

I hid behind the chassis on the bank,   
      The wreck of someone’s Ford:
I was afraid to come and wake you drunk:   
You told me once the waking up was hard,   
The daylight beating at you like a board.
      Blood in my stomach sank.

Beside, you told him never to go out
      Along the river-side
Drinking and singing, clattering about.
You might have thrown a rock at me and cried   
I was to blame, I let him fall in the road   
      And pitch down on his side.

Well, I’ll get hell enough when I get home   
      For coming up this far,
Leaving the note, and running as I came.   
I’ll go and tell my father where you are.   
You’d better go find Minnegan before
      Policemen hear and come.

Beany went home, and I got sick and ran,   
      You old son of a bitch.
You better hurry down to Minnegan;
He’s drunk or dying now, I don’t know which,   
Rolled in the roots and garbage like a fish,   
      The poor old man.

James Wright, “A Note Left in Jimmy Leonard’s Shack” 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)

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

Poet James Wright 1927–1980

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Social Commentaries, Youth, Growing Old, Money & Economics, Death

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 James  Wright


James Wright was frequently referred to as one of America's finest contemporary poets. He was admired by critics and fellow poets alike for his willingness and ability to experiment with language and style, as well as for his thematic concerns. In the Minnesota Review, Peter A. Stitt wrote that Wright's work both represents and parallels the development of the best modern American poets: "Reading the Collected Poems of James . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Social Commentaries, Youth, Growing Old, Money & Economics, Death

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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.