The Break

By Franz Wright b. 1953 Franz Wright
Then he stopped
dead on the sidewalk
astounded
to overhear himself
say quite distinctly
I quit,
in his own words — 
be glad you weren’t there.
Pandemonium
in the cerebral
combs, unprecedented
mass desertions, solar
flare-ups.
It said
itself
actually;
the lips moved
not, no thought was
taken. With massive finality
and apropos of absolutely
nothing it came,
a cruel blessing,
the ultimate low
note of an organ
made of ice or a passing
night train
of black holes. He
kept lying there — 
what else was he
supposed to do? — with watch
pressed to one ear, emitting
a molecular hum. (Ever wonder
how they fit a whole
hive inside one
of them?) Minute
hand starting to disappear,
such was its speed
by now; on his face
an expression
of guarded rapture.
No one could do a thing
for him now. They’d stop,
gaze down
in disgust
and concern, a moment before
they hurried on or,
without looking,
adroitly moved
around him, the way you would
dog shit. Invariably
in such cases there is a line
that no one crosses.
You know what
I’m getting at. Mainly
everyone just stands around
and waits for the arrival
of the ambulance; the mind simply stops, nothing,
silence. Then
the most silver,
the tiniest
sound
of a fracture
like that of an ice cube
dropped in vodka
can be heard
around the world;
people freeze
at whatever they’re doing, and bow
their minds, those persistent
illusions in pain,
or shame. But all
is soon forgotten,
the sunlight appears
all at once like
a great shadow
and floats with the gas-like hush
throughout the twelve spokes,
the brilliant yellow darkness
of the twelve candlelit
hallways forever
abandoned, forever
emanating out from
the one central
hexagonal chamber
so much larger than all
the rest, in which
the young queen lies
dreaming, amazed,
eyes open wide
inside
her lead-lined matchbox
rocking bed,
tits up
dead, immovable
sow, maggot
in color.

Source: Poetry (February 2014).

MORE FROM THIS ISSUE

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

February 2014
 Franz  Wright

Biography

Franz Wright’s collections of poetry include The Beforelife (2001), God’s Silence (2006), and Walking to Martha’s Vineyard, which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. He has received a Whiting Fellowship and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts for his poetry. Wright has translated poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke and Rene Char; in 2008 he and his wife, Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright, co-translated a collection by the Belarusian . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Life Choices, The Body, The Mind, Time & Brevity

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem


Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

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.