The Measure

By Jay Wright b. 1934 Jay Wright
I continue in my gbariye.
All things along my path are clean and white.
I have set out on a flute’s quiet wave
in search of my dark love.
Divination and division mark my road;
yet, if I turn from left to right,
I walk the same straight path.
I carry the wine of salt water in my bag
to the crossroads of honey and milk.
I am puffed up and charged with the thought
of my own separation. From light to light,
I continue while the light lasts.
The light rests on my walking pole.
I continue.

If ever you marry, remember,
there is a festival of light
on every island, a garden
where the women gather in white
to turn to the sound of a king’s song.
If you ask why the queen is silent,
the dance is ended.
Then only a boy on the cross of roads
can find the blue stone of wisdom,
the lourie feather of love in the flesh.
You ask me to enter the chamber and sing,
groan, inexpressibly, groan, ascend,
descend, leap from the ash of your pillow
to the calm light of your grave.
I am too certain of the measure of these days.
Sojourner and guest, I continue;
I polish new stones from old;
I am at hail’s end in the deep wings
of the city; I would return to the feast.
I continue.

I have learned to see a seed as act,
a word as a gift of perfection.
The hand that slips the abundant
seed into the darkness of earth
extends from my body.

I have always wanted to ask—
who speaks, who moves and who returns
when the I is hidden in the paradigm?
I have learned to accept my prescence as act,
my act as a placement of time.
I hold now, by my presence,
to have held the first light,
and, in my imperfection,
to have held the vision of my own absence.
This is the one you marry, so lightly.

Each figure, now, twins and untwins us.
We can say we can be brought, in white,
to the marriage bed, under a reed’s bass,
and settled, limb to counter limb,
with our desert’s necessities.
I wait, as always, at the crossroads
to be led into the city.
I desire your double journey.
I ask your name.
I continue.

Jay Wright, “The Measure” from Transfigurations: Collected Poems. Copyright © 2000 by Jay Wright. Reprinted by permission of Jay Wright.

Source: Transfigurations: Collected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 2000)

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Poet Jay Wright b. 1934

Subjects Living, Marriage & Companionship, Life Choices, The Body, Relationships, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Love

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Jay  Wright


Frequently described as a “poet’s poet,” Jay Wright has quietly built an impressive career as one of America’s leading African-American voices. His work, praised for its evocative language, introspective tone, and mythological imagery, has won many honors, including the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, Guggenheim and MacArthur fellowships, and Yale’s prestigious Bollingen Prize. Wright’s plays, essays, and poetry generally . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Marriage & Companionship, Life Choices, The Body, Relationships, Activities, Travels & Journeys, Love

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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