Boardinghouse with No Visible Address

By Franz Wright 1953–2015 Franz Wright
So, I thought,
as the door was unlocked
and the landlord disappeared (no,
he actually disappeared)
and I got to examine the room
unobserved. There
it stood
in its gray corner: 
the narrow bed, sheets
the color of old aspirin.
Maybe all this had occurred
somewhere inside me
already, or
was just about to.
Is there a choice?
Is there
even a difference? Familiar,
familiar but not
yet remembered ...
The small narrow bed.
I had often wondered
where I would find it, and
what it would look like.
Don’t you?
It was so awful
I couldn’t speak. Then
maybe you ought to lie down for a minute, I heard myself
thinking. I mean
if  you are having that much trouble
functioning. And when
was the last time
with genuine sorrow
and longing to change
you got on your knees?
I could get some work done
here, I shrugged;
I had done it before.
I would work without cease.
Oh, I would stay awake
if only from horror
at the thought of waking
up here. Ma,
a voice spoke from the darkness
in the back seat where
a long thin man lay,
arms crossed
on his chest,
while they cruised slowly up and down
straining to make out the numbers
over unlighted doors,
the midnight doctor’s;
in his hurt mind
he was already merging
with a black Mississippi
of mercy, the sweat pouring off him
as though he’d been doused
with a bucket of ice water
as he lay sleeping. “I saw the light,”
they kept screaming. “Do
I saw the light!”
Ma — there ain’t no light
I don’t see no light.

— Dayton, Ohio

Source: Poetry (February 2014).


This poem originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of Poetry magazine

February 2014
 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 . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Health & Illness, Arts & Sciences, Music, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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