You and I Saw Hawks Exchanging the Prey

By James Wright 1927–1980 James Wright
They did the deed of darkness   
In their own mid-light.

He plucked a gray field mouse   
Suddenly in the wind.

The small dead fly alive   
Helplessly in his beak,

His cold pride, helpless.   
All she receives is life.

They are terrified. They touch.   
Life is too much.

She flies away sorrowing.   
Sorrowing, she goes alone.

Then her small falcon, gone.   
Will not rise here again.

Smaller than she, he goes   
Claw beneath claw beneath   
Needles and leaning boughs,

While she, the lovelier
Of these brief differing two,   
Floats away sorrowing,

Tall as my love for you,   

And almost lonelier.

Delighted in the delighting,   
I love you in mid-air,   
I love myself the ground.

The great wings sing nothing   
Lightly. Lightly fall.

James Wright, “You and I Saw Hawks Exchanging Prey” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright © 1990 by Anne Wright. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, All rights reserved. Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1990)

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Poet James Wright 1927–1980

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Nature, Relationships, Love, Animals, Realistic & Complicated

 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 . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Relationships, Love, Animals, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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