To the Muse

By James Wright 1927–1980 James Wright
It is all right. All they do
Is go in by dividing
One rib from another. I wouldn’t   
Lie to you. It hurts
Like nothing I know. All they do   
Is burn their way in with a wire.
It forks in and out a little like the tongue   
Of that frightened garter snake we caught   
At Cloverfield, you and me, Jenny   
So long ago.

I would lie to you
If I could.
But the only way I can get you to come up   
Out of the suckhole, the south face
Of the Powhatan pit, is to tell you   
What you know:

You come up after dark, you poise alone   
With me on the shore.   
I lead you back to this world.

Three lady doctors in Wheeling open
Their offices at night.
I don’t have to call them, they are always there.   
But they only have to put the knife once   
Under your breast.
Then they hang their contraption.
And you bear it.

It’s awkward a while. Still, it lets you   
Walk about on tiptoe if you don’t   
Jiggle the needle.
It might stab your heart, you see.
The blade hangs in your lung and the tube   
Keeps it draining.
That way they only have to stab you   
Once. Oh Jenny.

I wish to God I had made this world, this scurvy   
And disastrous place. I
Didn’t, I can’t bear it
Either, I don’t blame you, sleeping down there   
Face down in the unbelievable silk of spring,   
Muse of black sand,
Alone.

I don’t blame you, I know
The place where you lie.
I admit everything. But look at me.   
How can I live without you?
Come up to me, love,
Out of the river, or I will
Come down to you.

James Wright, “To the Muse” 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)

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Poet James Wright 1927–1980

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 James  Wright

Biography

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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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