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The Journey

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Anghiari is medieval, a sleeve sloping down   
A steep hill, suddenly sweeping out
To the edge of a cliff, and dwindling.
But far up the mountain, behind the town,   
We too were swept out, out by the wind,   
Alone with the Tuscan grass.

Wind had been blowing across the hills
For days, and everything now was graying gold   
With dust, everything we saw, even
Some small children scampering along a road,   
Twittering Italian to a small caged bird.   
We sat beside them to rest in some brushwood,   
And I leaned down to rinse the dust from my face.

I found the spider web there, whose hinges   
Reeled heavily and crazily with the dust,
Whole mounds and cemeteries of it, sagging   
And scattering shadows among shells and wings.   
And then she stepped into the center of air   
Slender and fastidious, the golden hair
Of daylight along her shoulders, she poised there,   
While ruins crumbled on every side of her.   
Free of the dust, as though a moment before   
She had stepped inside the earth, to bathe herself.

I gazed, close to her, till at last she stepped   
Away in her own good time.

Many men
Have searched all over Tuscany and never found   
What I found there, the heart of the light   
Itself shelled and leaved, balancing   
On filaments themselves falling. The secret
Of this journey is to let the wind   
Blow its dust all over your body,
To let it go on blowing, to step lightly, lightly
All the way through your ruins, and not to lose
Any sleep over the dead, who surely   
Will bury their own, don’t worry.

James Wright, “The Journey” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright © 1990 by Anne Wright. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. 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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